Talking About Death and Dying

Talking About Death and Dying
September 21st, 2020 0 Comments

The escalating death toll of the coronavirus has had a numbing effect on us all. Who can even fathom so many thousands of people slipping away so quickly? As a society suffering from a collective silence about death, we now find the subject thrust in our face, unlike anything we’ve ever experienced.

People who die in the hospital of COVID-19 are dying alone. When we read these stories, we instinctively know this is not the way we should leave this world. When we envision a “good death,” we imagine a family surrounding the bed of an elderly loved one as they peacefully slip away. We rarely put much more thought into it than that because no one wants to think about death. Western culture has been looking for a way to avoid death since the days of Ponce de Leon’s search for the fountain of youth. But in the Native American and Eastern traditions, death is an accepted and revered part of life.

Death is something we all will face, whether it is the death of an elderly loved one, the untimely death of a younger relative, friend, or even our death. Death is seldom something that we are ready to accept, but allowing death and dying to become mainstream is a step to prepare for the last chapter of life. Reiki comes in gently to help soften our resistance and calm our fears. Before you begin a conversation about this topic, take time to sit in Gassho, fill your aura with the light of Holy Fire® Reiki, and ground yourself with Rama. Allow the energy of Reiki to quiet your worries and quell your fears. Send HSZSN and SHK, the mental and emotional symbol, to the person with whom you will be speaking. The energy of Reiki will help melt away resistance to this conversation.

As Reiki practitioners, helping someone transition is a role in which we can easily find ourselves. Clients may come to us when they are facing a life-threatening illness. Reiki is a valuable treatment modality in integrative care for a myriad of health issues, including cancer. Holy Fire® Reiki is a loving, spiritual energy that helps us to support our clients emotionally and decrease the physical side effects of conventional treatments for their disease. As their Reiki practitioner, we can become a trusted member of their health care team. In that role, we need to be open to listening to their worries and concerns. Often their family members are having a difficult time accepting the diagnosis and will discourage their loved one from talking about the “when’s” and “what-if’s.” I have found that listening was one of the most important functions to offer my clients. One terminally ill woman told me I was the only one she could talk to about dying.

As we spoke, I would hold her hand in mine and ask Holy Fire® to support her spiritually. Her family members would start crying every time she brought up the topic and insist that she not talk about it. When you encounter something like this, send Reiki to the situation. Activate the Karuna symbols Zonar, Gnosa, Iava, and Shanti. Ask Reiki to heal the family of their anxiety so they can be more supportive of their dying loved one.1 Because we may find ourselves in this role, it’s essential to invest time in thinking, reading, and talking about death.

Today we treat death the same way society used to treat normal menstrual function. Society used to shun women, sending them off to the “Red Tent” during their monthly period. Menstruation wasn’t something discussed; it wasn’t polite conversation. Now we realize that this way of thinking was very provincial. We wonder why people were so uptight talking about a basic human function. Talking about death is in that same category today. Death is not something we discuss or even something about which we want to think. Yet it is a given, and guaranteed to happen not just to 50% of the population, but to every single one of us. “How do I know where to go?” my son asked. “Just follow the light,” I replied. “You will see a light, and it will guide you, just follow the light.”

Nathan, my eldest child, received a malignant brain tumor diagnosis when he was 17 years old. Within three years, his life’s journey was ending. At this point, he had quadriplegia and was paralyzed entirely from his neck down. He was at home on hospice, and our time together was precious. His friends visited him often to be supportive and lift his spirits, but as the hours slipped away, it was important to me as his mother that Nathan was not afraid to die. Dying is a once-in-a-lifetime event; I wanted him to feel as prepared as he could be. And so, we talked about everything. Did he want a burial or a cremation? His grandfather and uncle had died not long before and were cremated, so he was comfortable with that idea. Where did he want his ashes scattered? He told me he wanted them taken to Iceberg Lake, a mountain lake in Wyoming, which is so beautiful I had said it looked like the place where God lived when we had hiked up there only three short years before.

We talked about what kind of food he wanted us to serve at the reception following his memorial. What music did he want us to play at his funeral? He chose a song by Green Day, Time of Your Life. It’s a great song as the lyrics go, “It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right. I hope you had the time of your life.” We discussed how he would like to be remembered. He asked if we could start a scholarship in his name at the University of Miami, the school he had been attending. He decided he wanted the scholarship given to students with cancer or other chronic debilitating illnesses. We talked about whatever was on his mind; would there be girls his age in heaven? I promised him he had nothing to worry about. I was sure there would be plenty of girls to meet on the other side.

I told him how we would never forget him, told him how much we loved him and how he had impacted all our lives. But I also told him he wasn’t getting out of his responsibility as an older brother. I expected him to keep a close eye on his younger sister when he reached the other side. I reassured him he had nothing to worry about; he was going towards Love. As much as I loved him, God loved him more. These talks helped Nathan to prepare for death. These talks were some of the most treasured hours of my life as his mother. I hate to think how scary his last days might have been if I had been uncomfortable talking to my son about dying. Confronting the subject of death was something I had found myself presented with early in my career as a nurse.

I had been an obstetrical nurse and assisted women as they labored to deliver their babies, bringing new life into this world. The hospital where I worked was a tertiary center, a hospital for high-risk pregnancies. Occasionally a mother would lose her baby due to complications. This situation was my introduction to coming face-to-face with death. When a baby would die, we would wrap the infant in a blanket and bring the little one to the mother and father for them to see and hold their baby. We understood that you needed to say hello before you could say good-bye. In this situation, you can use HSZSN, Holy Fire®, and Shanti to surround the grieving parents with light to comfort their breaking hearts.

I realized I had a proper perspective on death and dying, so after my son Nathan died, I took training to be a volunteer hospital chaplain. I remember one of my first hospice patients. I walked into the room and found a woman in her late 80s. She was non-communicative, her eyes full of panic and fear. I took her hand, and while sending the Holy Fire® symbol into her palm, I whispered that she had nothing to fear, she was going towards Love. “Don’t say anything!” her sister admonished me. “She doesn’t know she’s dying.” I complied with the sister’s concern.

Looking at the dying woman’s face, it was apparent she recognized what was happening, but it was to be left unspoken. It saddened me she had no emotional support as she faced death, and she had to go it alone. So how should we support the client and the family as death approaches? There are two useful sources on the internet I recommend that provide some talking points, The Conversation Project,2 and the Serious Illness Conversation Guide.3 When you are working with a terminal patient, allow them to speak freely to you about their concerns about death. This circumstance is not the time to proselytize.

It is the time to listen and be supportive, no matter what their religious or philosophical perspective. When the time comes for your client to cross over, you may decide to visit them at their home or the hospital. Before you visit, make sure to take the time to give yourself Reiki. Ask the Reiki energy to fill your heart and your throat so that Reiki will fill the words you speak. Send Reiki ahead of your arrival to fill your client’s room with light. You might be inclined to call on the angels, but it’s unnecessary. They’re already there. Helping people cross over is one of their favorite assignments. Thank the angels for coming and for shining their light into the divine light of the dying one.

Use HSZSN to create a bridge for crossing over and ask the Holy Fire® symbol to light the way. The Karuna symbols Zonar and Shanti will create a space of preparation and calm, creating a loving sensation of peace.4 When your client is dying, your focus is not only on your client, but it extends to the client’s family. Support the family by giving them concrete things they can do to help their loved one as they prepare to cross over. Let them know that this time is a precious gift. It is an honor to be present as someone leaves this world for the next.

Though not scientifically proven, it is widely believed that hearing is the last of the senses lost before death. So, encourage families to talk and share their last thoughts, love, and support with their loved ones because even though they’re fading out, they can hear what they say. “Don’t waste a breath, tell her how much you love her,” I instruct the family. “And fill her room with music, something lovely to accompany her on her journey.”

I always thought Pachelbel’s Canon in D would be the music at heaven’s door. Encourage the family to choose music their loved one enjoys and play it often during this time. Let them know it will amaze them how often they will hear it when thinking about their cherished person after they pass. It will become a way that he or she will let you know they are still with you.

Touch is also vital during this time. Hold your loved one’s hand, so she doesn’t feel alone. Climb into bed with her. Cuddle her in your arms. Dying is hard work, and it can be scary.

Reassure her that everything will be all right, she is going towards Love.

There is nothing to fear.

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