Preparing for the Death of a Loved One

Grief Support

We empathize with how the death of a loved one can be a difficult experience.

They may be gone, but they are far from forgotten. It’s an experience nobody expects yet leaves scars in our hearts that last a lifetime.

In our own way, Algordanza wishes to help you cope with grief and loss. A local certified Psychotherapist stands with us in this endeavor and brings you the following articles to help you in times of grieving:

Preparing for the Death of a Loved One
Preparing for the Death of a Loved One
Written by:Sasha Javadpour - Founder|Director|Psychotherapist-Hirsch Therapy Pte. Ltd.

Preparing for the Death of a Loved One
“The fear of death follows the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at
any time.”
—Mark Twain—

Thinking about death is not usually a pleasant thing to do. Given the choice, most of us would rather avoid thinking about death than actively contemplate it. Unfortunately, thinking about death is as unavoidable as death itself. This is even more so, when you are forced to confront your, or a loved one’s, impending death. When the final verdict from the doctor falls, and you hear the estimate of how much time is left, death anxiety, fear, and demoralisation become very real. Sadly, these are experiences that are not often considered but have a tremendous impact on the patient’s wellbeing and quality of life. Medical interventions for the dying tend to focus on pain and symptom management while neglecting the psychological struggle that the patients and family members will go through.

The purpose of this article is to bring understanding of this unique situation and explore some hopeful options that are available in this otherwise hopeless situation.

Anticipatory grief refers to the grief experienced prior to the death. It is a form of grief rarely talked about and often misunderstood. It is a form of grief that is experienced by both the dying and the surviving. The misconception that grief is only for death itself has been misunderstood as a gradual detachment between the dying and the surviving. We now understand anticipatory grief to be a coping mechanism designed to elicit action for preparation.

People going through anticipatory grief may experience intense anger, guilt, anxiety, irritability, sadness, a deep sense of impending loss, and a decreased ability to perform normal tasks. All of which are experiences that indicate that something is not right and that something needs to happen. We tend to experience stronger anticipatory grief the more unprepared for death we feel. Therein, however, lies the key to facing it. The anticipatory grieving process can either be seen as a period of incredible chaos and turmoil, or it can be an opportunity for reconciliation, forgiveness, closure, and preparation. For most, it is a chance to say the best goodbye they can.

In confronting anticipatory grief, we want to utilise the mechanism for what it was designed for – an opportunity to prepare for a major transition. In the case of anticipatory grief, we will want to focus on relationships, closure, and preparation. These areas are specifically targeted because of their close association with concerns that plague many who are on their death bed. These concerns include topics such as meaning, purpose, and legacy.

The strength of social connections, which include friends and family, has been a welldocumented factor that can help to reduce death anxiety. Focusing on relationships can help reinforce a sense of meaning and belonging, as well as maintain morale in an otherwise hopeless situation. At the death bed, relationships become the corner stone for the fight against demoralisation. It is a time where support becomes the most valuable asset in a person’s life.

When faced with impending death, it is understandable that people would lose hope. Demoralisation is a state characterised by feelings of hopelessness, lack of meaning, and a sense of failure that arises when facing an approaching death. It is a dangerous state to be in because it tends to be associated with increased perceptions of pain and suffering, as well as an increasing desire for a quicker death. Most people tend to fear the dying process more than death itself. The desire for death is, therefore, understandable as a wish to bypass the dying related fears and jump straight to the relief of death. Therefore, the preservation of morale may be the final buffer that protects individuals from the terror of dying and death in the face of a terminal illness.

At this stage, we will want to focus on maintaining hope, meaning, and a sense of self-worth.

Hope: Although there may be no hope left for prolonging life, it is still possible to instil hope for a desirable passing. How do you hope to leave the world? Whom do you hope to see before you go? What do you hope to tell your loved ones before passing? What do you hope to do before you go?

Meaning: A common fear of the dying is that they have lived an unfulfilled or meaningless life. Here, it can be beneficial to utilise the time you have left to contemplate the impact the dying has had on their loved ones. Recalling such impressionable moments can remind the dying of the good their life has brought to those around them.

Self-Worth:Another major concern for many dying people is their retention of dignity before they pass. The last moments are rarely pretty. The dying person’s foundations of pride and autonomy can be easily shaken by their condition. It is, therefore, so important to do what we can to help them hold on to these feelings. Treating them with respect and allowing them to make decisions where possible can have huge benefits for their sense of self-worth and ease their comfort levels before passing.

Financial Preparation

It is not uncommon that financial issues accompany a prolonged terminal condition. Medical interventions can be extremely costly. The impending death also means that there is one less person contributing to the family finances. Such financial problems can add an additional strain to the entire process which can contribute to greater levels of anxiety, insomnia, and depression for the bereaved. For the dying, such stress can further weaken their immune system and make them even more vulnerable to infectious diseases. It would, therefore, be of great value to discuss such issues with a financial planner as soon as possible to find ways to ease the burden on all involved in the long run.

End of Life Care Discussion

As people near the end, their decision-making abilities may become more impaired, especially if pain and delirium set in. At this stage, the family is often left to make the difficult decision whether to extend or end life. To avoid this burden, it can help to have a thorough and extensive discussion about their care options and preferences as early as possible. These include Advanced Care Planning (ACP) and Advanced Directives (AD)

Facing death is never easy. It is even harder when death comes with a countdown timer. But, it is at the darkest places that even a flicker has the potential to illuminate the entire room. Even such a devastating situation has the potential to bring a final wave of positivity to those involved. Famous last words, incredible acts of human kindness, unbelievable feats of forgiveness, and overwhelming gestures of support are only a few examples of the vast potential for the goodness of humanity to shine in the worst of times.

It is a potential that rests within us all. Waiting.