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Spirituality, Death & Dying

Connection, creativity and compassion are vitally important needs of the dying as well as those who are caring for them.

Connection or communion to the "Divine",  "God", "Spirit", or the "Source": In different religions and cultures, it ultimately means the same but there is a different name that we all have related to in our life. A spiritual union or relationship is what keeps us feeling connected, creative and compassionate. This Spirit or Divine is omnipresent: meaning that the force or energy is present everywhere in us, around us and in everything of this entire universe. I believe it is this sense of connection that support s us in feeling less alone and less helpless in the face of death. And it is this that gives us hope that the connections will remain alive in us eternally.

The more I listen to others relating their stories, their challenges and experiences surrounding death, the more I am inclined to believe that the caregiver must really tune into the needs of the dying, for many times, the religious beliefs may alter in the final stages, and it is the spiritual connection that the dying is experiencing that must be supported.

A deeper sense of spirituality can emerge in the final stages. It is a spirituality which is deep and rich and their own sense of who they are which is of the utmost importance. By voicing your own opinions and not really understanding what your loved one is experiencing can cause utter havoc. So it is important that you ask what they are experiencing and listen while they express themselves. If you are centered in empathy and compassion, you will support your loved ones in greater ways than you could have imagined.

Many of you have shared your fears about being alone with your love one as they make their transition from their physical bodies. Have you given much thought to your loved one, their dignity and what it means to have someone close with them. Just by being still, breathing in harmony, gently touching or massaging their arm or forehead can ease their fear more than you can have imagined. Are you prepared for this?

Edith Campbell, a chaplain to people suffering from HIV and Aids in New York wrote:

"I'll hold the rope while you scale the depths of the cavern "

"You are accompanying the person on a journey. You are traveling in unknown territory together. What the person needs is not to be told what to look at and what is beautiful or to have things explained to them. What you are able to do is to help clear the way so that person on the journey is able to tell you what they see, is able to point out to you the fullness and the beauty and the strangeness of the territory that they are going through.

It takes mutual cooperation to enable that to happen. You need a relationship of trust and openness, shared humanity, the understanding that this person is there as a full human being with you in your full humanity.

We are struggling in the midst of this to make sense of what we are going through. It requires you to let go. It is about surrendering all of your ideas about what you think you have to offer and listening to what that person is really asking you for. Often what they want most is just another person to be alongside them in the midst of this, to acknowledge that this is scary and frightening.

I am frightened too, because I don't have the answers. What I have is what little I have. I'll be there with you as much as I can. You are not alone. I'll hold the rope while you scale the depths of the cavern. I won't let you go, but I cannot go into that cavern with you. I'm here. I'm here at the top of the rope and I'll help bring you up as much as I can.

Just knowing that someone else is there is the greatest gift you can offer to someone going through all of that, to make the space, to provide and environment where the person can go into their own journey more fully."

There is much healing and work to do from this moment on with this awareness. 

The journal exercise this week is about stilling yourself and going inward to imagine what it might be like in the final stages for your loved one and how you can truly be there for them. Ponder on what you have read. Really breathe in all the energy behind it...let yourselves be guided so that you can be a clearer vehicle, a giver to your loved one in their time of need.

Blessings to you.
©COPYRIGHTED BY GAIL R. MITCHELL 8/2/99 


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