What does the term “dealing with death” mean to you?
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published a landmark book on the subject of dealing with death called “On Death and Dying” back in 1969 that is still referenced today. In it, she outlined the five stages that people go through when they learn that they are terminally ill and are going to die. Those five stages are Denial and Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and finally Acceptance.
It is a great book to read if you are the one who has received the news of terminal illness or if you have a member of the family who is going through this process. Dealing with death means different things to different people, and it certainly has a different meaning depending on which side of the message you are on.
I think that it is just as important to recognize that there are two very important aspects of the subject dealing with death, the psychological and the physical. A person has to be prepared mentally to die. This can take years to do. If one of your parents died when you were a child, or if one of your own children has died “out of turn”, you can struggle with your own immortality and your thoughts on death for years. If you are given a diagnosis of terminally ill later in life, and you have not thought much about dying, this process probably goes through what Dr. Kubler-Ross described in her book. Many people do not get through all five stages before they die.
The physical side of dealing with death has more to do with “getting your things in order”. This might mean having discussions with your spouse, partner, and family about life insurance, financial planning, a living will, if you don’t already have one, a last will, funeral plans, bills left to pay, saying goodbye and making peace with those around you. The Hospice organization is very good at helping people prepare to die, counseling the family, and even with details as to how to help with caregiving.
The mental preparation will almost always involve going to the core of what your spiritual beliefs are. If you are religious, you will probably seek guidance and counsel from someone in your place of worship. If you are not religious, but you are spiritual, you might start to read or reread your favorite books from some of the authors that have given you food for thought over the years. Some of the best minds in the history of man, including Albert Einstein, physicist, and Soren Kierkegard, philosopher, have gone to their grave pondering the question of the existence of God and what happens after death. You will not be the first nor the last to go through this exercise. Dealing with death will come on a very personal level.