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How to Cope with End of Life Emotions

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The idea of death is probably the last thing people want to talk about. Who’s not afraid to die? In fact, Ernest Becker wrote in his book, The Denial of Death, that ‘death itself and the fear that comes with it haunts the human animal like nothing else.’ The fear of death may arise from the pain or suffering or the nothingness beyond the earthly life. 

The degree of fear may vary from one person to the next, and this is proven by multiple studies, which intrigued many people, from scholars to religious leaders over time. Some fear can be healthy because it results in an immune response toward caution. However, some people may endure an unhealthy fear of dying, which can lead to extreme sadness, anxiety, depression, and delirium, knowing that they’re not getting any farther than their own death.

It is natural for healthy, young people to feel terrified of their own death, but those coping with a life-threatening illness are more likely to experience clinical depression. This type of mental health issue is often underdiagnosed, but it must be identified and treated once symptoms persist. 

Here are some helpful ways to handle emotions in the event of impending death for terminally ill patients and the people who care for, love, and support them. 

Seek medical help

Your overall health should remain a top priority, even during the end of life. As mentioned earlier, hospice patients may suffer from various mental health problems, with depression being the most prevalent issue as they near death. 

Depression is more serious than typical feelings of sadness. Common symptoms of depression include hopelessness, lacking interest in the things you used to enjoy, major changes in sleeping or eating habits and thinking or talking seriously about suicide regardless of the nearing end. In case you think you or a loved one may be experiencing clinical depression, it is vital to get medical help immediately. 

Mainstream treatments may include medication prescriptions, therapies and counselling, or a combination of the three. Going through these treatments, alongside a healthy lifestyle, may help patients find joy and satisfaction in the last stages of their lives.

Consider a CBD-inspired regimen

Cannabidiol, CBD for short, has been marketed as a wellness supplement. It is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that comes from a wide variety of cannabis plants, including hemp. It is also available in various product formats, such as CBD gummies, capsules, oral sprays, tinctures, etc. While studies on CBD’s long-term effects are still ongoing, many experts are keen to explore its potential role in the wellness scene. 

Aside from being regarded as safe for human consumption, CBD is also famed for its purported relaxing effects. When used alongside a well-balanced diet and mindful meditation, CBD may help ease tension in some people. However, palliative-care patients who want to experience potential relief from CBD must work with a physician in determining proper CBD dosage.

Figure out what scares you most 

There are many obvious reasons to fear death. While some people are scared of abandoning their loved ones, others are terrified by the unknown. It might be helpful for patients to figure out the real reason(s) behind their fear. This way allows them to face that fear and find ways to manage it. For instance, if dying alone is what terrifies you most, talk to your loved ones and let them know about your last wish. Knowing that you’ll have them around when your time comes gives you peace of mind, which, in turn, helps ease your worries.

Manage your anger

It’s normal to feel angry about a life that’s about to end. Sometimes, people toss their anger to their loved ones because they feel the safest with them and know that these people can understand their emotions. However, it might be best to throw your emotions to other things, such as your disease. Try to rechannel your anger to more positive things like fighting your illness and becoming more inspired to wake up each morning and conquer another day.    

Make the most of your remaining time 

Nothing seems to be more painful than grieving toward a life you’ve planned and expected to be. However, it’s not just you who are in grief; your loved ones are grieving too. While you still have time, try to reconnect with the people who played an important role in your life. It is the best time to rekindle and strengthen your relationships with them. You may write them letters, make videos they can watch in memory of you or simply talk to them about how to handle the loss that they will soon go through. It’s also a good opportunity to discuss important issues relating to your last will, life insurance claims and other things you want to settle before you go. Making every day count helps put your mind at ease, knowing that your life’s most important goals have all been fulfilled.

Find your purpose in life

People often ask, ‘What is the real meaning of existence?’ The frustrating fact is that no one really knows the answer. Knowing that your story is about to end probably makes you want to ponder on the good things you’ve done in the past. Or, you want to think of how you’ll be remembered when you die. It’s good to go through a process of evaluating your life and trying to figure out what your special contributions to the world have been. Sometimes, life’s purpose can be found deep within your own reflection about yourself. Share your thoughts, experiences and principles with your closest people and let those things be some kind of gift that they can cherish from you even when you’re no longer around.

Adam Mulligan did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in psychology, mental health, and wellness.

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