The Dying Process

            Taking control of our final days

Death can come in many forms and many people worry about cause of death as much as death itself. The prospect of dying quietly and peacefully in old age is understandably more comforting than being victim to a tragic accident in younger days. In our workshops we look at approaching the many ways that we could potentially die, but here, I want to briefly consider the natural process of dying in old age.

 The last stages of life can be very stressful for the dying person and those caring for him/her. You will observe changes that may be upsetting and unfamiliar. Learning about the dying process will help. Many physical changes occur during the process of dying that affect the emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of a person’s life. 

There are some signs and symptoms of dying that are observable, although not everyone follows a predictable sequence of events or stages. Health professionals speak of “dying trajectories” or “pathways” that suggest how persons with specific diseases will die. For example, those with a terminal illness, such as advanced cancer, will show a steady decline toward death. Those with serious chronic illnesses may have peaks and troughs that sometimes give the impression of recovery.

 Remember that each person’s death is unique.

It is helpful to understand the common symptoms experienced in people who are dying. You may observe none, some, or all of these symptoms in the dying person’s last days and hours on earth. You will also learn things to do that can help ease physical pain and suffering.