Preparing to Die

Key Concept

Our final moments can be very traumatic; we are facing the greatest unknown and for many, we are facing our judgement day. It is very hard to face this in peace and calm – unless you are prepared.


To examine this final moment and to see what palliative care-givers and different religions have to say about this final transition.

Mental, Emotional and Spiritual preparation for Death

We’ve covered the practical stuff – but how do you prepare for the actual process of dying?

This talk by BJ Miller "What really matters at end of life" is a gentle exploration of our final moments.

In the last assignment in this focus on old age, we offer some links to religious and non-religious thought on how to prepare mentally, emotionally and spiritually for death.

We are both a Physical and a Spiritual being. We have covered a lot of the preparation that we need to do to take care of the Physical being, but not much that cares for the Spiritual being.

Hold on!

A big assumption here. Are we both a physical and spiritual being? Or are we just worm-food - we are born, we live, we die, the lights go out and we get eaten by worms?

Is there a heaven, and is there a God in heaven? Do we re-incarnate and is there kharma? Does hell exist? Do sinners burn in hell for eternity? What is sin, who are the sinners? Am I a sinner?

At the peak of our lives, and when we are fit and strong these are somewhat academic questions, but at the end of our lives they take on a real meaning. What do we really believe? Because what we really believe will determine how we face our death.

So, now would be a good time to truly consider these issues. Where do you find the peace of mind that Elisabeth Kubler-Ross talks about in the Acceptance phase of death? Are you really going to be with your family in spirit forever, or is this it ............?

Where do you find the peace to “just let go”?

Please read this article – Crossing the creek It is an excellent account of one’s final hours. It is quite long, but it is worth every moment.

Preparing for Approaching Death

We have taken the liberty of placing You as the character in this article by Hospice

When you enter the final stage of the dying process, two different dynamics, which are closely interrelated and interdependent, are at work.

  1. On the physical plane, your body begins the final process of shutting down, which will end when all the physical systems cease to function. Usually this is an orderly and un-dramatic progressive series of physical changes which are not medical emergencies requiring invasive interventions. These physical changes are a normal, natural way in which your body prepares itself to stop. (This is described in detail in the Crossing the creek article.)


  1. The other dynamic of the dying process at work, is on the emotional-spiritual-mental plane, and is a different kind of process. Your spirit begins the final process of release from your body, its immediate environment, and all attachments. This release also tends to follow its own priorities, which may include the resolution of whatever is unfinished of a practical nature and the reception of permission to “let go” from family members. These events are the normal, natural way in which the spirit prepares to move from this existence into the next dimension of life.

When your body is ready and wanting to stop, but you are still unresolved or un-reconciled over some important issue or with some significant relationship, you may tend to linger in order to finish whatever needs finishing, even though you may be uncomfortable or debilitated. On the other hand, you are emotionally-spiritually-mentally resolved and ready for this release, but your body has not completed its final physical shut down, you will continue to live until that shut down process ceases.

The experience we call death occurs when the body completes its natural process of shutting down, and when the spirit completes its natural process of reconciling and finishing. These two processes are determined by you and will happen in a way appropriate and unique to your values, beliefs, and lifestyle.

Normal Emotional, Spiritual, and Mental Signs and Symptoms

You may seem unresponsive, withdrawn, or in a comatose-like state. This indicates preparation for release, a detaching from surroundings and relationships, and a beginning of letting go.

Vision-like Experiences
You may speak to persons who have already died, or you may see places not presently accessible or visible to others. This does not indicate an hallucination or a drug reaction. You are beginning to detach from this life and are being prepared for the transition so that it will not be frightening.

You may perform repetitive and restless tasks. This may, in part, indicate that something still unresolved or unfinished is disturbing you and preventing you from letting go.

Decreased Socialization
You may only want to be with a very few or even just one person. This is a sign of preparation for release and affirms from whom support is most needed in order to make the transition.

Unusual Communication
You may make seemingly out of character or non sequitur statements, gestures, or requests. This indicates that you are ready to say Good-bye and are testing to see if others are ready to let you go.

Holding On
You will normally try to hold on, even though it brings prolonged discomfort, in order to be sure that those who are going to be left behind will be all right.

A Special Note : Take time to explain the situation to children.

Children may not have a clear understanding of what death is all about and why you aren't as active as you used to be. For children younger than 5, use basic ideas such as shapes and colours to help them understand life versus death.


The following links may be useful in considering the Spiritual aspects of dying:

  1. An extract from The Nature of Human Thought by Anil K Rajvanshi On Death, Karma, Reincarnation.
  2. The 9 Point Meditation on Death from Discovering Buddhism by Venerable Sangye Khadro
  3. Preparing for Death by the Imam Hujjat al-Islam Muhammad bin Muhammad Abu Hamid al-Ghazali
  4. Preparing for Death from the Catholic Encyclopaedia
  5.  Spiritual Preparation for Death by Maria Valtorta
  6. Spiritual preparation for Death by Larry J Greene (Hospice and Palliative Care)

Discussion Assignment – Spiritual Preparation

I found the following resources useful in being with someone as they were dying.

Discussion Forum

This is the final module (for now!)

Please join in the discussions on the forum and help other members deal with the challenges and joys of this transition.

Next Module