Thoughts and self reflection… I am writing from the perspective of one who is dying.
There is no doubt that talking about death is very uncomfortable to a majority of people that we (by “we” I mean those who are actively dying) come into contact with. It makes no difference if these people are family, close friends, coworkers, or strangers any conversation about one dying is seems to always have to be avoided: I have found that it is the quickest way to end a visit or a conversation!
The conversation of dying is always met with statements of, “Gee, you look good” or “You are strong, fight it” or you are told, particularly if you have terminal cancer of someone the speaker knows who had the same thing (kind of, it was a cancer after all!) and they lived for years. Those living does not want to have a conversation of dying, they are in denial; but they fail to realize that they are not only denying the terminal illness, but they are also denying the individual who is living with a terminal illness when they avoid the obvious.
“The living does not want to have a conversation of dying, they are in denial; but they fail to realize that they are not only denying the prognosis, but they are also denying the individual who is living with a terminal illness when they avoid the obvious.”
Ninety percent of all deaths involve a prolonged period of dying. Thus, it is important to view dying as a stage of living. It is no different than talking about “teenagers,” or “the terrible twos,” and or “seniors.” They are all phases of existence that each and every one of us have or will go through. So, the process of dying is just a stage we go through. A stage that involves slowly but surely having one’s body shuts down; all terminal illnesses have their own trajectories, or ways of defining the process of dying.
The dying process is a very lonely experience. As one who is dying, I watch as the people closest to me are busy living their lives and their coming and going reminds me that I, unlike them, do not have a future that requires doing things or going places. I have established a family text messaging group, a weekly family Zoom meeting, and I am currently living with one of my sisters and yet I have not had a personal, one on one, with anyone. Oh, I have been told that if I have anything I want to talk about I can just see them; except for my brother who I have been informed that he does not do text messaging and emails; he also does not do phone calls either as I have reached out to him numerous times and he has yet to call me.
The difference between me coming to them versus them coming to me is one of denial. I do not want to infringe on anyone and or have individuals deal with things they do not want to deal with. So, I am lonely due to the “avoidance” that I feel from those who are closest to me. I know that I am progressing and that certain activities I will never do again; like running or walking without a fear of stumbling and or losing my balance. I constantly have headaches and I never had them before. I can read the results of my CT scans and review my bloodwork and I already know that tomorrow when I see my oncologist the discussion will not be positive. I have not told anyone, and I probably won’t.
That is how the loneliness of the dying process works; you do not want to share bad news or complain about what is wrong with you, because you do not want to interfere with the living and their lives.
There is not much, at this point that the dying can do but there is a lot that the living can do to understand the dying process. I would recommend that you visit a Meet Up group and participate via Zoom with any of the wonderful Death Cafe groups or attend a LastAid course or find out more about Palliative Care or visit this site to read the blog posts and or communicate via email. I participate in the Death Cafe in Rochester, New York and I know we have visitors from all over the United States who participate, and the group is very welcoming to new visitors.
“Dying is a phase of living…”
Don’t fear the dying but rather, celebrate their life with them while they are living. Listen to them, reach out and let them know you care. It’s the emotional side of dying that is more overwhelming than the physical aspect of dying.
My Next Post will be Friday, August 5, 2022, and its focus will be on how to define a “Good Death” for those who are living as it is never too late to living the life that will ensure a “Good Death.”