Facing Dying and Death

In my work on energy I delved into a lot of the scientific and philosophic literature on the birth of the cosmos and life on earth. I followed where the literature led me and wound up reading a vast amount of work on the mind-body problem. I learned that I could not study about energy and life, without including death. For my thesis, I actually wound up reading and writing more about the oscillating rhythmicity and inseparability of life and death than any other topic. By that time I was a seasoned critical care nurse, so I faced death often enough. I had personally suffered the death of several dear friends and family members too. But it never hit me as hard and as REAL as it did when my dad died of cancer. Then, I got to have a close enough encounter with the idea of dying several years later when I was diagnosed with cancer myself. Talk about AHA moments…

On my philosophical ponderings regarding dying and death (and after death) please take a look at my earlier writings and webpages dedicated to death, dying and synchronicity.

Many people talk (and write) about how hard it is to discuss dying and death; that seems so silly when you think about it. By talking about how hard it is to talk about, we are talking about it. It is time to get over the fear and denial of death because it is 100% guaranteed. Reflecting upon and talking about end of life care decisions is not about giving up on life, it is about choosing how to live until we die. It is about having a choice and a voice in the matter.

Not all nurses are educated to care for the dying and their loved ones; however, chances are it will be a nurse that is caring for a person as he or she is dying. Odds are too, that it will be a nurse who the loved ones turn to for support during those last weeks, days and hours, while they watch their loved one die. So, why is it that not all nurses are educated to care for people at the end of life? I imagine it is linked to the value placed on cure and promotion of health. But I am also sure that the societal proclivity to deny and avoid death contributes to the inconsistent teaching-learning of end of life and palliative care. My many years of teaching this topic and having had to advocate for space in the curriculum to teach it, along with formal and informal research on what is taught in other schools (and health professional curricula), tells me that many nurses and other health care professionals, have a great deal of difficulty facing death. Educators in the health care professions are not excluded.

A lot of my work in recent years has been geared to draw attention to the crucial need for nurses to receive better educational preparation to care for patients at the end of life. And here too, I think it has to begin with a discovery of our own butterfly power…

It is so clear to me and I think probably to anyone who has learned how to care for the dying and their loved ones that at no other time in a person’s life is there such an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people. It is a life-altering gift to be an authentic caring presence at the end of a person’s life and to help the loved ones through this most difficult time. Facing death and coming to terms with its reality also enables each of us to appreciate our own lives that much more.

No one forgets those final weeks, days, hours and moments. If we, in health care, do not do it well, the loved ones of the patients who die will live with the bad memories they have of those last days, forever. Most of us will live with those bad memories forever too. Far better for all, that we do it well.

 

References

Todaro-Franceschi, V. & Lobelo, A. (2014). The voice of nurse nurse educators on teaching end of life care in U.S. schools of nursing. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice,4, (4), 165-171.

Todaro-Franceschi, V. (2013). Critical care nurse perceptions of preparedness and ability to care for the dying and their professional quality of life. Dimensions in Critical Care Nursing, 32, (4), 184-190.

Todaro-Franceschi, V. & Spellman, M. (2013). End of life pedagogy, changes in death attitudes and power as knowing participation in change. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, 3, (1), 120-125.

Todaro-Franceschi, V. (2012). Compassion fatigue and burnout in nursing: Enhancing professional quality of life. New York: Springer.

Todaro-Franceschi, V. (1999). The enigma of energy: Where science and religion converge. New York: Crossroad. (Also see NYU dissertation)

Todaro-Franceschi, V. (2011). Changing the face of death: A pedagogic intervention. Journal of Professional Nursing, 27, (5), 315-319.

Todaro-Franceschi, V. (2011). Re-patterning health professional death education: A matter of social justice for all. The Forum: The Quarterly Publication of the Association for Death Education and Counseling, 37, 26-27.

Todaro-Franceschi, V. (2006). Synchronicity related to dead loved ones: A natural healing modality. Spirituality and Health International, 7, 151-161.

Updated 2014

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