Andrew Kneier, a clinical psychologist who works with cancer patients, shares that often the dying want to speak of what is happening to them, but that their friends and loved ones don’t give them the space to do so, urging them to remain positive and hopeful, and “fight.” In a study he performed at the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center, which he discusses in his book Finding Your Way Through Cancer, he was able to discern six main factors continuously mentioned by his patients as they came to terms with their impending deaths:
Gratitude for their lives and positive experiences
Pride in accomplishments
Faith or spirituality
Making changes in order to be more at peace when death comes
Their legacy, or positive contributions to others
Loving and being loved
He emphasizes that these were the topics privately consuming his patients, who had felt unable or unwelcome to discuss the topics with their families and loved ones.
I find that terribly sad, and it just validates that accepting, embracing, and, yes, maybe even obsessing about death is an important and valuable part of life.
Read about death. Learn about death. Think about death. Make decisions about your own death. Ask your friends and loved ones about their deaths. And if at all possible, do what you can to assure that you die a Good Death.
Christine Colby is a writer/editor specializing in the darker side. She has been a speaker at Death Salon L.A. and Death Salon Mütter Museum, and was a founding member of the Morbid Anatomy Museum.