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Facing Death Wisely

We are very good at living, but what about dying?  We are comfortable with focussing on our accomplishments, accumulations, and rise in life; so, why not have the same intention for our descent?

Our lives can be enriched by accepting and facing death. As philosopher Corliss Lamont stated, “The wise (person) looks at death with honesty, dignity and calm, recognizing that the tragedy it brings is inherent in the great gift of life.”

Death has a place in our life – in the life cycle. Preparing for death is an integral part of living life fully and is core to our personal growth.  Our task is to bring meaning to our death – to think creatively about how we will meet death.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross suggested, “For those who seek to understand it, death is a highly creative force. The highest spiritual values of life can originate from the thought and study of death.”

Imagine that, studying death. And yet, it is a necessary task on our journey.

You can start to meaningfully explore your death in a number of ways.  Depending upon your personality, some ideas may appeal more to you, others not so much; yet, all are worthy to explore. It may be interesting to notice where you have any resistance in trying any of these suggestions.

One way you can approach death is by focussing on the concrete aspects of preparing for death (e.g., wills, living wills, health proxies (aka advance care plans), burial/cremation pre-arrangements and other death rituals). Here you are dealing with practicalities such as, “How do I want to die?”

You can also focus on any unfinished business with colleagues, friends and family, and with groups, organizations, and the collective (such as leaving a legacy). The key idea here is, “What do I value?” and “What can I let go of?”

On a deeper level, one can reflect about the meaning of life and death. Here you address the question, “How can my death be meaningful for me and others?” Having a solid religious and/or spiritual foundation helps with answering this concept.

Facing death also involves deciding on end-of-life medical care and interventions, funeral or memorial services, and who will be responsible for decisions if we become incapacitated. It is important to ponder these ideas and let others know our wishes.

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Diane Hancox, MA, CCC provides counselling services to Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Nanaimo and Vancouver Island.