Table of contents:
- In the face of his death
- Fear of death
- Accepting death
- When a child dies
- Risks to grieving parents
- Differences between men and women
- Couple relationship research
- Post-traumatic growth
Video: Grieving. Life, Death And Salvation Stories - Reviews
We are publishing an excerpt from Julia Samuel
's book “Experiencing Grief. Stories of life, death and salvation”.
Publishing house "Peter", 2019
Our first breath tells us that we were born. The last breath speaks of death. We know we will die. This is the only predictable fact, but our amazing intelligence turns this knowledge into a well-guarded secret
In the face of his death
Faced with our death, we must accept the loss of the meaning of life and recognize that our departure will be a huge loss for those who love us. But death is not always sad. When a person accepts it and stops fighting for life, he can die nobly, peacefully and painlessly, surrounded by loved ones.
Psychologists with extensive experience in this field talk about a unique closeness with a person at the time of his death. They talk about this moment as a time when we have the opportunity to enrich ourselves through deep emotions. Once on a similar path, a person no longer strives for success or approval, so he can be himself. At the same time, this path is not the only one and is not suitable for everyone. Some people have to keep fighting and may treat death like war. Soldiers don't stop fighting before they die. Nobility and tranquility are not for everyone.
My time in hospice taught me that we all need to speak, plan, and prepare for death long before it is time to die. This will help to understand ourselves and understand why we, so to speak, are afraid to death of death. We will get rid of this fear if we calmly understand our attitude to life and death and talk about discussing our desires, thoughts and fears with loved ones, especially with those who are going to outlive us. Sometimes, despite long conversations, we may never feel ready to die the moment the time comes.
People stop fighting for life and accept death in the process of experiencing personal grief. This happens when a person feels pain from the loss of a desired future and finds the strength to accept a limited future
If we believe in something that comforts us during life and comforts us on the verge of death, our suffering will not be so great. If we want to talk to our loved ones about our death, they will also suffer less. Nobody knows what a dying person feels, but we are sure: if we are present at the death of a loved one, it will forever remain in our memory. Death, when everyone's feelings correspond to his thoughts, is easier to perceive.
From my own experience, I know that there will always be those who cannot talk about death or do not want to weaken their defense mechanisms. The admission of death causes paralyzing fear in them, so denial becomes the only reaction. It should be understood that even those who deny their death can speak of their fears figuratively. It's important to catch clues in their speech. Those who do not talk about death are likely to suffer more as it approaches (not only because of losing a fight they wanted to win, but also because of the immense fear of death). However, some people may completely deny death and still die peacefully.
Many of us have heard about the miracles of medicine, which saves millions of lives every year. But these successes give us the wrong idea of its capabilities. Once a fatally diagnosed person overcomes a tipping point, their condition can be stabilized, but the disease cannot be reversed. This is hard for patients and their families to accept. They always hope for an operation or treatment, they believe that out of a million people they will be lucky. Sometimes you have to make very difficult decisions - choosing between the risk of death due to treatment, such as chemotherapy, and the risk of death from the disease itself. Therefore, the doctor must talk to the dying patient and his family to make a difficult decision together.
When I work with families in which one of the members is expecting his death, I advise you to speak openly and honestly with each other. Most importantly, please make sure no one has any regrets. People need to spend time together, make up, or at least just keep quiet together, take photos and diary entries, reduce the number of guests to the closest, and focus on the person they love so much. Every minute is valuable and will be a source of comfort after a person's death.
Deep down, we know we want to die painlessly, peacefully and with dignity. We do not want to leave alone - we want to have people who love us nearby and to be in a place where we feel safe. We don't want to end up in a hospital where we will lose our dignity in the struggle for life. If we are able to contemplate our inevitable death, no matter how difficult it may be, we will have the opportunity to arrange death at will. It also means that we will be less afraid of her. We cannot control our death, but we can use every means of support available to make it as acceptable as possible.
It is worth repeating that the main barrier to the discussion of death is overcome by the so-called "magical thinking". People are afraid that by talking about death they will somehow bring it closer. Or they think that talking about death means that they have given up. That is why we must talk about this topic before we face death.
Fear of death
Our attitude towards death most likely reflects our life. If a person is often angry with life, he will become even more angry as death approaches.
At this difficult time, our emotions are off scale. Many people have a negative view of death. The realization of your mortality and the feeling of impending threat can create tremendous fear.
Reflecting on a life lived, a person will either feel acceptance or decide that they have lived a meaningless life. Unsurprisingly, those who believe they have lived to the fullest will have less fear of death than those who believe their lives are pointless.
The fear of death is often heightened when a person loses a loved one. The fact is that this evokes thoughts about our own mortality and makes us think that sooner or later we will die. To cope with this fear, many become defensive, such as trying to distract themselves from the inevitable thoughts of death or denying their vulnerability. These defense mechanisms have led to the belief that death should be feared and avoided at all costs. However, research shows that people who have been on the verge of death often stop being afraid of it. I have often noted that parents who have lost their children are no longer afraid of dying.
According to research results, people who have accepted death morally are psychologically prepared for the finiteness of life. They are aware of their mortality and show a positive emotional response.
However, some may accept death in general, but at the same time deny the idea of their mortality. For example, scientists studied a person's perception of someone else's mortality and his own and found that the study participants often described their possible death unrealistically, but very realistically - the death of others.
A person's attitude towards death can be related to his physical and mental health. This is confirmed by research: physically healthy people were often less afraid of death. Acceptance of death has been shown to have a positive effect on health and well-being in general.
When a child dies
There is nothing more difficult than the death of a child. We do not think that we will have to bury our children; they should bury us. But the death of a child tears this rule of life to shreds
Couples whose child died were unsettled and disoriented. It seemed to them that they were in a strange world, scary and confusing, and in which they did not have a map and a compass. The death of a child leaves a huge void behind and destroys a person's life.
Parents grieve for a son or daughter who was the meaning of life. It is difficult for them to come to terms with the changes, with the idea that their child will never grow up. They are forced to rebuild their lives and look to the future without him.
If parents want to see a counselor after their child dies, I recommend going to the sessions together. This loss shakes up the relationship and the whole family. If one parent does not attend the session, it will be difficult for the family to recover from the stroke. As many parents say, the death of a child makes you a member of a club that no one wants to join. Many families feel like outsiders. In addition, it seems to some that they were somehow chosen for such an unfortunate event.
An important step towards recovery will be connecting with other people who have also lost their children. They will become your support group.
Oftentimes, people overlook the great grief of their grandparents. They not only mourn for their grandson, but also see the suffering of their children. However, they cannot change anything. Grandparents can play a key role in reuniting families after a child dies if they maintain good relationships with their children. But if the relationship is not the best, it will only make matters worse.
Risks to grieving parents
After the death of a child, the mother and father are at increased risk of psychiatric and chronic illness. Risks are especially high in the first year: grieving parents are 70% more likely to end up in hospital and have their first mental health check than parents who have not lost their child.
I cannot stress enough the importance of psychological help when a person is trying to cope with a bereavement. During the first year, parents who do nothing about their grief are almost indistinguishable from other grieving people. But in subsequent years and even decades, they may suffer more socially, emotionally and physically than other grieving people.
Differences between men and women
Women experience child loss longer than men. They suffer from increased anxiety, obsessive thoughts and insomnia. Research shows that men are less likely to want to talk about a child's death and are more likely to refuse professional help. Perhaps it's because they want to stay strong for their wives (or society's influence). This does not mean that it is easier for men. They just manage pain differently. This leads to the fact that men do not receive enough care and attention from others. It seems to people around that men can cope on their own, although this is not so. As a result, men feel that their grief has been discounted.
Couple relationship research
If the mother and father can discuss their grief, they will become close after the loss of the child. These are two people who really know what it is like to lose a child. Research shows that couples who are already struggling with relationships and do not seek professional help are more likely to divorce after their child dies.
Recovery requires the use of all social support options. Friends who are always there in a difficult situation will help the couple get through the grief. Over time, they will help the family return to life - a new life in which parents will not feel like outsiders.
Grieving parents have tremendous guilt feelings. Unlike other grieving people, they consider themselves responsible for the death of a child, regardless of the cause. The feeling is enhanced if the death was sudden. Families often ponder the circumstances of death, want to go back in time and change the decision that could lead to such an outcome.
The words "you are not to blame" will not help such couples. This is the same as asking the person not to worry
Parents would like to change something in the past, but cannot. Feelings of guilt need to be studied and discussed in detail. Only then can it be overcome. This process often helps to identify inconsistencies between thought and reality. Two voices fighting each other in silence become clearer. Parents may know that their child has died due to an accident or natural death, but a voice from the heart convinces them to take all the blame. Incipient conflict often creates unbearable tension. But if you deal with it, the tension will ease.
People who have not lost children often try to alleviate the pain of others. Many of us strive for the positive and mistakenly assume that losing a baby is not as painful as losing an older child, because the parents did not have time to get to know him. The pain of losing a child should be measured not by his age, but by the love and hope of his parents.
People also assume that having other children will ease the pain of loss. Research shows that having other children can help parents because they have to keep living for them. These children become the meaning of their lives. However, this is a simplified point of view and should not be taken as a basis. Sometimes the pain of grieving parents can outweigh the love for the remaining children.
Adjustment is a psychological term that describes bereavement and its effect on us, as well as the inner changes that will allow us to get used to the new reality. The device can be depicted visually. The space or hole that reflects loss is at first a bottomless and all-consuming darkness. But over time - sometimes a very long time - the grieving person rebuilds his life. The hole may not shrink, but life expands around it.
Research in the US and UK has shown that a traumatic event can lead to positive change and psychological growth. This in no way diminishes the severity of the injury. But life-changing events can cause unexpected consequences in the fate of some people. For example, people became more self-confident and felt more resilient in the face of difficulties. All thanks to one thought: "If I survived this, I will survive anything." Trauma can also change priorities in life. Most people stopped appreciating money and status and paid more attention to relationships. As a result, relationships with family members and others were deeper and more enjoyable because people became wiser and more merciful. After such intense suffering, their capacity for empathy and compassion increased.