Handbook for Mortals : Enduring Loss : Grieving your own dying

A life-ending illness can give you time to say good-bye to people you love and care about. You have time to make plans for how you want to be cared for at the end of your life, and, perhaps, how you want to be remembered. You may, if you feel well enough, find time to do things you have always wanted to do, or you may wish to resolve old hurts and grievances.

If having a chance to say goodbye is a blessing, it can also be a curse. People who are sick and dying are often afraid and worried. Throughout the course of a life-ending illness, you must pass many milestones, and with each, experience some degree of loss. With loss, in general, comes grief and sadness.

Being very sick and coming to the end of your life, you face a series of changes. Each loss can give rise to grief -- the loss of independence, or dreams or abilities now gone. There are some ways to cope with grief, and to help those you love as they, too, grieve for and with you.

"He searched for his accustomed fear of death and could not find it."

Leo Tolstoy, from The Death of Ivan Ilyich

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Handbook for Mortals book cover Copyright © 1999, 2006 by Joanne Lynn. This extract from the Handbook for Mortals by Joanne Lynn, M.D. and Joan Harrold, M.D. is used with permission. To learn more about improving care at the end of life visit the main web site for Americans for Better Care of the Dying.
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