Death – It Shouldn’t Be Like That

We can have many pictures on what death should look like. How we think we want to die, how those who are close should die and then there are the circumstances surrounding each death. All these pictures and ideals are rarely anything near what eventuates.  It’s correct to say that we each have experiences around death, which can often inform the pictures of death that we have. And death can very often catch us unawares.

Recently a relative died suddenly after making the choice to continue with chemotherapy treatment despite rapidly advancing disease and knowing that in the pursuit of treatment that death was not only possible but likely. And so, an informed decision was made based on the desire to extend life. Because the body was no longer able to tolerate the additional chemotherapy the result was a rapid death.

How are we as family, carers or health professionals with this? This can be an uncomfortable place to sit.

Regardless of our role, we can often reach the conclusion that death shouldn’t be that way. But have we moved to this conclusion too quickly because we are reacting to how uncomfortable we are feeling? And is it simply the pictures and ideals we have on what death should look like, being exposed for what they are….pictures and ideals.

Deterioration in health and death can influence our view of what death is and can challenge the pictures of death we carry with us.  It can also create more pictures of what death should look like.  Pictures we hold don’t allow us to see everything that is going on.  They only allow us to see literally what is in front of us, and not the whole. They essentially frame what it is we are seeing.

As patients, we could be making choices grasping onto life, no matter what is presented. The grasping forces our view away from what is in front of us. Yes death, but also what we have lived up to that point. This prevents us from being fully present. How we respond then informs our choice.

Surrender is a response rarely considered.  It is the letting go of the need to be in control of eventualities. It requires acceptance of the inevitability of a body that is dying making sure that anything outstanding is taken care of. Conversations with family or significant people can be had.  This brings completion to a life. There is also an allowing in of people seemingly once afraid of or even resistant to, whilst completely honouring of what is true for us.

Illness can provide the platform to let go of the ideals and judgements of who you are as a person, the personality and identification we have of ourselves in various roles. We are offered an opportunity of deepening into the being, the essence of who we are, and surrendering into that. When we surrender into this, we automatically let people in, we allow ourselves to be truly seen. What then is on offer for us is also on offer for others.

Because we limit what we see and hear with our physical senses only, we can miss the wider view of what is on offer.  The person dying struggling and avoiding the surrender, often in the fight to stay alive.  The person caring can also enjoin the fight for survival and when they do deny themselves the opportunity of being with a person as they surrender.  What they witness is the struggle and resistance to death. Care workers, health professionals and families can often react, because the struggle is all they see.

Even though we may only see the struggle, there is still a very beautiful learning in these movements, for us all. It gives us the opportunity to take a step back from whatever we are perceiving has happened and feel the whole.  We are being given the opportunity to learn that there are multi-layers of communication occurring beyond our physical senses.  And if we give ourselves permission to take that step back, we drop the struggle.  And the opportunity is there then for the next time.

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