What Is a ‘Good Death’? – 5 Contributing Factors

My husband was lying in the hospital bed. Drains, tubes, and a catheter were connected to him in various ways. The constant beep-beep of the machine next to him was irritating beyond description, particularly at night-time.

We’d been told there was nothing more they could do, and by this time he was too weak to be moved home.

‘Home is where you and I are, and here we are now’, I spoke to him softly.  He nodded his head. We had often talked about this, but it was clear his preference had been to die at home.  Later that day, I asked the doctor to take out all tubes other than those keeping him pain free. She looked up sharply, as if to wonder whether I knew what I was saying.

But I was clear – no more beep-beep noises. Silence, stillness was what was needed. Perhaps broken only by the sound of some quiet singing from myself and another good friend. A few hours later, he had died.

So, was that a good death? How can you tell unless you know what the person dying wanted?

I wonder if Philip had been less afraid of what death meant, would he have been able to accept it knocking on his door, and let death in?  Would that have meant he might have been willing to come home earlier on, knowing he would be coming home to die?

I’ll never know, and wondering is a really good way to prolong suffering.   Better to move on, to think about how I might be able to provide for my own ‘good death’.

So, what does a good death mean for you? Just have a ponder about that during this next week, which in the UK is Death Awareness Week.  And in the meantime:

Here are 5 contributing factors that will help you increase your own chances of a good death, and ease the suffering of your family and friends afterwards:

  1.  Be as pain-free as possible (this will be increased if you have completed and discussed with the relevant people your advance directive or living will, as well as appointing a power of attorney to act on your behalf)
  2. Have resolved any family disputes or conflicts with others (keep up to date with this)
  3. Review life and find meaning in it (to have explored what life and death mean to you)
  4. Be willing to explore the concept of death, as well as the practicalities of your own one. Why not dream about what you ideally want? It will at the very least enable you to be less afraid of death while you are alive.
  5. Have written down what you want. Complete a copy of my Before I Go workbook or something similar, and tell someone, so at least one trusted person knows what is wanted in the final days.

All these will give you peace of mind about what will happen when you have departed. Knowing you have demonstrated your love for those left behind in a very practical manner brings an enormous amount of relief.

Now – hand on heart time!  Statistics show that only 20% of the people reading this who know they need to take some action in this area will actually take that action.

good death weekIf you fit into this category, then please do yourself and your family a favour – come and join me on my last live Before I Go course. You can find out the details here

(If you’re unsure, hesitant, or have questions you can join me on the free webinar I am giving on Saturday 12 May)

And if you are local, please come along to our event Bringing Death to Life in The Tolbooth, Forres on 16th May (details on my facebook page)

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