Dying: A Natural Passage
by Denys Cope

Winner:  2008 New Mexico Book Award

A Bedside Manual for Being with Dying, Dying, A Natural Passage, is an award winning, one-of-a-kind-guidebook, providing practical and insightful information about rarely addressed end-of-life issues, such as:

  • What best supports a peaceful death?
  • How can I help with pain management?
  • Is it time to call in hospice?
  • If my loved one is not eating, will he starve to death?
  • My mother appears to see and talk to people who are not really in the room. Is she hallucinating?

We, the living (and we are all living until we take our last breath) owe it to ourselves, our loved ones, and our society to learn about the process of dying.

As a society, we need to understand that death is a natural part of life. We need to become familiar with the process, and what it means to us, as our lives unfold.

Too often we are not comfortable around a dying person. We are afraid for many reasons, but most often because we are dealing with the unknown. We are not sure what to say, what to do, or how to be with someone who is dying, often afraid that we will say or do the wrong this, or somehow cause harm. We believe something is going wrong and we may feel responsible to “fix” it. Many times the person who is dying feels guilty for having caused their illness. They may feel shame for being ill or letting loved ones down or creating discomfort in other people. They may fear suffering or being a burden. And they might experience grief at leaving loved ones, and/or anger at having life and loved ones taken away. These feelings are all a natural reaction to a process that, for the most part, is foreign to us, and therefore is often entered into blindly, and with many misconceptions.

Sadly, 85 percent of Americans die in hospitals. Often this is because family members are frightened and feel totally ill-equipped to care for their loved ones. Even when there is some acceptance of death, many people feel completely inadequate to deal with the process. It is hard to be around pain, to see apparent discomfort and suffering, and feel so helpless. Sometimes being in the hospital is the choice of the person who is dying, who sees those fears, and does not want to be a burden to family members who are already overburdened.

As a registered nurse since the mid-sixties and a hospice nurse for more than half of that time, I have learned that one of the most important parts of hospice care is teaching family and friends about the dying process, to allow them to become comfortable being with and caring for their loved ones.

With education and support, especially from hospice, I have found that it is possible to support a peaceful death at home or in an in-patient hospital facility. And if, for whatever reason, a person does die in a hospital or nursing home, that death can also happen in as peaceful and supportive an environment as possible.

What helps is to become familiar with the actual dying process, the physiology of it, and the spiritual aspects that emerge, to know what is really going on. This booklet describes what happens when people are counting their life in weeks or months rather than years. It is based on what I have learned from the many, many individuals with whom I have been involved during the last days of their lives.

Click here to read an excerpt from the book or here to purchase.

© 2000-2015 Denys Cope, RN, BSN. All rights reserved.