This is a subject that could fill, and indeed has, a library of books. This short section will talk about dying rather than death, because dying is very much a part of our cycle and it is as necessary to have a ‘healthy’ lead up to death as it is to be healthy prior to conceiving.
Spiritually speaking, death may be considered an endpoint or a beginning. The importance is not about establishing which it is but being at peace with whichever decision you, as an individual, make. Whether you end on the right side of Jesus, in the house of Allah or reincarnate to continue your lessons, a belief is a great help in stemming the fear that is associated with dying. Indeed, one can be at rest as much with a religious belief as one can with believing that we are ‘fodder for worms’. One should work towards a sense of conviction throughout life, and in doing so one will remove the fear of death.
The fear of dying is often not associated with the actual end point but more with the fear of pain and discomfort that is associated with this final act. Dying comfortably and without pain, anxiety or distress to the individual or those around is the necessary goal.
Death often arises swiftly through accident or rapid disease process, but all too often death is a process spanning over days, months or even years. Through that time the human being goes through a variety of emotions best described by Dr Elisabeth Kiibler-Ross.
Initially we will deny the possibility of what we have always known to be an inevitability. However strong our conviction towards a religious or spiritual belief, the fear of the unknown will create an option for us. Do we continue to follow our lifelong belief or not? Indeed, we have had options all through our life and our mentality is not geared towards having no choice. We therefore tend to deny the possibility of this event.
Anger is due to the inevitability of death but tends to be reflected or transferred to the body, the person or those close at hand.
The individual will bargain with themselves, their lifestyle or their God, often as a backlash against the second stage of anger: ‘Perhaps, because being upset has not worked, from now on I will be peaceful and understanding of the situation and then it may go away’.
There will come a point when the true realization occurs that this particular chapter of existence is drawing to a close and depression will set in. Regrets over actions and thoughts not realized and the feelings for those who will be left behind all come into play and create anything from mild to severe depression.
Most of the time, those going through the stages of dying will reach acceptance. It is a suitable end point and preferable to all the other emotional states because it invariably brings a level of calm both to the individual and to those close by.
Each stage may take a few hours to a few months to travel through and, like climbing a step ladder, we can slip or climb from one level to another but overall we generally move our way towards acceptance. There is no easy way of dealing with death in the short term, and it is perhaps better to consider dying from an early age.
It is a failing in the West that the loss of the extended family has removed most of us from being around the dying. For those who are dying there is the pleasure of having the exuberance of youth running around outside the bedroom and for those for whom death is far off it becomes less frightening when it is no longer part of the great unknown. In the West we have made death into a taboo subject, rarely discussing it in anything but morbid terms and often ending short discussions with ‘I really do not want to talk about that’. Death and dying must be brought back into our social structure at an earlier age if we are to deal with this important part of our life.
Start at a young age to openly discuss death and spend time with those who are dying, when possible, to experience the event.
Understand the levels of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance, and relate that understanding to those around you.
Constantly work on your own spiritual beliefs concerning death. By all means change your attitudes, but it is important to have a belief, whether it is considering death as a final endpoint or the start of a new life.
Contend with outstanding practicalities. Deal with personalities who may find your death traumatic and also clear your own conscience by saying what needs to be said to those to whom it should be said. If possible, and should time allow, fulfil as many ambitions as possible, both practical and emotional.
Discuss dying with a bereavement counsellor and ensure that you are conscious of the good and bad points of your leaving this life.
Focus your attention on being comfortable and pain free. Discuss this with orthodox doctors and complementary medical practitioners because most alternative disciplines will have potentially useful techniques.
The homeopathic remedy Arsenicum album can be offered by homeopaths as a remedy that challenges the body when it nears death. If vital force can be redirected and be of help in comforting the individual, Arsenicum album will contribute. If the vital force is absent, the demand by Arsenicum album will not be met and the end will be smoother and less traumatic than it might otherwise be.
Although attitudes are changing throughout the world, and in certain parts of Europe and Australia medically assisted euthanasia is now legal under certain circumstances, taking one’s own life is illegal. Most religions create a taboo around euthanasia and different Eastern philosophies have different views and values. Japanese society has its infamous hara-kiri, which is an accepted, expected and honoured tradition under the right circumstances. The concept of reincarnation, however, suggests that suicide or euthanasia will prevent the necessary pain, sorrow or discomfort that the soul needs to endure to avoid having to come back and learn the lesson next time round. Medically speaking it is hard, sometimes, to place the spiritual aspect above the level of physical suffering found in those who have had painful strokes, or who are struggling with neurological conditions such as motor neurone disease or multiple sclerosis or those in social circumstances that may be beyond human endurance.
Always discuss thoughts of euthanasia with counsellors, and not with friends and family.
Contact your National Euthanasia Society.
Hunt around and you will find doctors or healthcare professionals who will be able to advise you on successful euthanasia techniques. Some may even be willing to assist, despite the legal risks. I have chosen not to include here the preferred and most successful technique.