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A short SDF series on

What do you do when….

2. when you are facing death?

Seven steps to help you when are facing death.

So you have been given the news that there is no cure?  That your death is inevitable.  How will you cope? How do you prepare?  How will you take care of yourself, your family?  What now?

You may have noticed the word “when” you face death rather than “if”.  Death is perhaps the greatest reality in our life – something we all face.  And yet it is also something people don’t really like thinking or talking about. 

There are a whole range of emotions you may go through when facing death.  Sometimes people never give up hope for a cure.  Sometimes they just give up.  When I speak to those who have been told they only have so long to live, I remind them that they are not dead yet.

Facing Death
Illustration by Sam Rowe


Here are 7 positive steps that you can take to help on the journey.

1  Understand your emotions
It is said that we go through five emotional stages when facing loss: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.  
There is no time limit for each stage, but most people can’t move on without completing each stage. Sometimes people jump back and forth between stages.  So there is no clear cut pattern, however these steps are a natural process that helps us deal with sorrow and loss.  And understanding grief is a process you have a lot of say in gives you some control back.  There are many websites that explain further these stages of grief.

2  Don’t panic
I know – easier said than done.  Remember the stages of grief.  It’s ok to cry and grieve the life you thought you had left to live.  But there are also things left you can still achieve. Take a breath – there is still life left to live.  No one really knows when they might die so focus on the things you can do now.

3  Make a plan
Sometimes the timetable is short or long.  Look at the things you want to do the most.  Almost like a bucket list or things you may want to do, like write a letter or a video message. Make daily, weekly, monthly goals of things you want to achieve.  In some ways knowing your outcome and having this time could be seen as is a gift.  As opposed to a sudden death with no warning.

4  Take care of yourself
Rest when you need to rest and work when you can.  Even though drugs or the disease can make you feel unwell – be kind to yourself.  Don’t be afraid to say no to people if you need to.  Don’t be too proud or afraid to ask for help when you need it.  If you have a young family it is even more important to look after yourself and it is amazing how family can rise to the occasion. 

5  Enjoy each day
Death and its associated thoughts can become all-consuming.  But there is still life to be lived.  Don’t miss out on this.  Talking about what you’re going through is important. Talk about everyday things – gardening, sport, family, travel, etc. Enjoy the small things – smell the roses, watch the sunset, enjoy a coffee…

6  Repair relationships
This can be tough, but it can also be so rewarding.  Having this opportunity is something to be considered seriously.  This can bring peace and healing to both parties.  It is definitely worth considering and asking for help if you need it to make it happen.

7  Use Support
There are groups, agencies, family or friends that are willing to help.  Don’t shut them out.  Be open and honest.  If they are getting too much, let them know.  Don’t go it alone if you don’t need to.

You are facing a journey we all will make.  Of course there are lots of emotions and questions and sometimes few answers.  Of course it may feel unfair.  Take control of the things you can control and don’t dwell too much on the things you can’t control.