People don’t die like they do in the movies—alive one minute, saying something profound and dead the next. There is a way that the body dies. A way it is programed to die. It’s just that most of us don’t think about it, don’t know and generally don’t want to think or know about it. This is part of the death denying society that we live in.
I’m going to talk about dying. I have spent most of my life talking about death and now more than ever I want to explain the normal way the body dies.
This is a time of great fear in our country and a huge portion of the fear evolves around dying, probably the thing we fear the most, certainly Americans fear the most.
Knowledge reduces fear so here is Dying 101.
There are only 2 ways to die. Fast, getting hit by a truck, heart attack or suicide to name a few. Gradual death, the other way we die, is either old age, (the body just wears out and you die) or disease. We get a disease that the doctors can’t fix, that our body can’t fight and we die.
Dying from the coronavirus is considered a gradual death (disease) that can happen rapidly.
There is a process that occurs with gradual death. Certain things happen at certain times. If death just suddenly happened it would be fast death. The changes that occur in gradual death occur on a timeline, from months, weeks, days, hours and minutes.
With the coronavirus the gradual dying signs will begin in the days to hours before the dying time frame. Up to that time they will be very sick, have difficulty breathing but not appear to be dying.
Most people are going to be isolated in some kind of medical facility, surrounded by machines, and tubes but I think the fear we carry is not about the machines or tubes but about how am I going to feel? I’m scared about what I will feel like when all of this is going on.
Think about a time when you were the sickest you have ever been. During the sickest time you don’t remember much if anything. What you remember is when you were past the critical point and you hear what others told you happened.
During the worse part of a severe illness our mind just kind of blanks itself. That makes me believe that the person dying isn’t really aware of what is happening round and about them. However, most of us watchers observe what is happening and think the person dying is thinking, feeling, experiencing the world in the same way the watchers are. I don’t believe that is true. I have been with so many people in their last hours to minutes and have consistently observed their lack of connection, lack of fear, and lack of awareness.
In this time of great fear and uncertainty my wish for us, along with health, safety, and support, is knowledge. Knowledge of how to live in this crisis and knowledge of how to die in this crisis. We may be doing both.
Something More about... In This Time of Great Fear, DYING 101
My end of life booklets are available as ebooks. The goal of this series is to neutralize some of the fear that an unpredictable future may bring. Knowledge of the dying process and its natural and normal unfolding can help create a meaningful and comforting experience as a loved one journeys from life.