There’s no question that dealing with the pending loss of a loved one is never easy, no matter how many residents of Cedar Rapids and elsewhere will tell you that it’s a natural part of life and you should look for ways to embrace it.
Yes, those feelings can make a certain kind of sense in the abstract, but in reality, when it’s someone special who is moving into hospice care and is likely to be leaving the world soon, you’re more likely to experience feelings of fear, sadness, anger and similar emotions, sometimes all coming up at once.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice understands how difficult the process of death and dying can be, not just for the client but also for those around him or her.
Beyond the physical conditions that may have led someone to need hospice care, people who are dying often experience all sorts of emotions as they think about everything they’re leaving behind. They may worry about their family after they’re gone, including their finances and well-being.
With death, there’s always fear about what’s ahead. Although most faith traditions promise some variety of good times, others predict unhappy circumstances if you’ve had problems or challenges in your life.
People who are dying often go through their various stages of grief – denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance — at their own pace, and may not even follow them in a linear fashion.
But in some cases, especially in a hospice environment, they may reach acceptance earlier than others in their family or circle of friends.
This can sometimes create tension if the person who is dying soon is feeling calm and even curious about what the next step in their journey could be, while those around him or her are dealing with strong feelings of fear and anger.
That’s some of the reason why many hospice programs make sure to include opportunities for family members to communicate about what everyone is feeling and concerned about. This can help bring everyone closer together, even though it can be a difficult time. But good memories can be created, and perhaps some old wounds could even be mended.
Mental health professionals even have a term for the feelings that people may experience as death approaches: death anxiety.
As with most anxieties, it can take different forms and turn into various feelings such as anger, fear, and sadness. It can lead to panic attacks when one feels overwhelmed with feelings.
It also may be connected to depression, another mental health condition that has similar feelings and actions attached.
Medical News Today said that another term for death anxiety is something called thanatophobia, which is defined as a fear of one’s death and the process of dying. It’s different than necrophobia, which is a general fear of death or things that are dying.
Thanatophobia may be seen as an extreme version of separation anxiety when someone is afraid that important people in their life are going to leave. People with separation anxiety may be worried about friends, romantic partners, or even family members when they’re gone.
But in the case of death anxiety, the person they love is never coming back which can make the pain even more acute, and potentially make the time before their death difficult. They may not be able to remain calm and enjoy remaining time together if this anxiety is so strong.
It also can lead to other neuroses, such as hypochondria, where someone believes they’re sick often and will fear that it will lead to death.
Psychology Today also examines death anxiety at a more philosophical level. It theorizes that these feelings are at the root of many anxieties in our lives, but suggests that a fear of death is completely normal.
Some of these fears appear in our subconscious first but are expressed in other feelings. And we also look for ways around this fear by trying to have high self-esteem and trying to save and preserve aspects of our world (money, possessions, etc.,) in order to subconsciously keep ourselves alive.
Dealing with death
Most mental health professionals will tell you that trying to ignore death will backfire since it could hurt more when it does happen and potentially impact relationships with loved ones when they do go through the dying process.
At the other end of the spectrum, people who embrace death fully are often judged by some members of society as being too morbid, Goth, or fatalistic. A good example is the Addams Family, who have an extreme focus on death but remain upbeat and a cohesive family unit.
If you or someone you love is dealing with death anxiety, consider learning about hospice care options. Even if someone isn’t physically ready for all of their services, they can still qualify if they meet other conditions, such as having a terminal disease and six months to live in some programs. They may be able to utilize some resources from the organization, such as counselors or social workers.
Some people may wait until they are days from death before requesting hospice help, but doing it sooner can benefit you and your family.