Death and dying

Coming to terms with the prospect of imminent death, and preparing for this eventuality, is an emotional process, for the dying person and their family. When a person is told that they are dying from their disease, an initial phase of denial is common. This can be followed by feelings of confusion, anger, distress, and sadness. Sometimes, the person will go through a period of withdrawal. All these reactions will eventually abate and the dying person will start to prepare for their death. Typically this can involve any number of things, from settling outstanding financial matters and writing or re-writing wills, to undertaking a project they have always wanted to do, or making arrangements to complete outstanding projects.

The period of time just before a person's death can also be a time of tremendous healing and growth for all concerned, by dealing with past hurts and damaged relationships. This, in turn, can bring a feeling of completion and peace.

Grieving and dealing with the details

It is normal for family members to start grieving before the person dies. The length of time that people grieve depends on many things, including the nature of the relationship with the deceased, the age of the deceased, whether or not the dying person's death was painful and traumatic, or peaceful and timely. Financial resources will also play a role, and the more details that family members can take care of prior to the person's death, the better.

Some things to consider

If the person wants to die at home, what kind of care will they need? Can you provide it, or will you need the help of professional care givers or nurses? Sometimes appointing a family member to take care of the administrative details, such as finding out what's involved in obtaining a death certificate, making funeral or cremation arrangements, or even finding out if the dying person is an organ donor, can help in coming to terms with the situation. Alternatively, some families prefer to have a friend of the dying person or a lawyer deal with these matters. In any event, the administrative matters should be settled before the person dies.

Written and reviewed by the MediResource Clinical Team