I watched my father die. He was 89. I also watched my father-in-law die. Actually my father in law died in my hospital. He was 86. He was discharged to go home that day. He took his bath by himself in the morning. Dressed himself up, in a chietaincy attire. Then lay down in a hospital bed and died. He had requested and got a hair cut the previous day. He was calm, cool and collected. His death was peaceful and he was a man of peace.
In my more than 35 years of medical practice before I retired. I had engaged in medical research on human psychology before death. That is the state of mind of a dying person. That is if someone knows he or she is going to die. Will he panic. Will he be calm. Will he rabble rouse, throw tantrums, or rationalize the approaching death philosophically.
I know I have not died before, but having watched, observed and researched on the state of minds of dying people, I arrived at two conclusions. I shall come to that later. Do you know that on average, women live longer than men in most countries, except in India, where men live longer. No one is quite sure why women live longer. It may be some factor in their physical constitution and state of mind. Alternatively, it may be the consequence of the different types of work that men and women tend to do.
Impending death leaves one with two psychological stages of the mind. 1. The fearful stage. 2. The sorrowful stage. According to the definitions of Socrates the wise philosopher fear is a journey while sorrow is an arrival. Can you grasp the philosophy behind the two assertions.
The fearful stage – is a very worrisome stage. It could even lead to suicide. This stage could be manifested by panic attacks, excessive panting and palpitation. Inability to come to terms with the idea of dying, especially if associated with painful death. There could be shortness of breath, and a sense of suffocation.
There could be dizziness, staggering gait and fainting attacks. The person has a bizarre sense of fast constriction of the heart and syncope. There could be tremors, trembling and shaking of hands. This stage might also manifest with excessive sweating and choking. There could be nausea, stomach ache or diarrhea. There could be also associated feelings of unreality, strangeness or detachment from environment.
Numbness or tingling sensations could follow depending on the associated pathology of the illness. There could be flushing or chills. Chest pain or general discomfort. The fear of dying could also lead to anxiety neurosis. There could be the gnawing fear of going crazy or losing one’s mind or control.
The sorrowful stage – manifests with the realization of what must be. The person accepts his fate with equanimity, and rationalizes it with wise cracks or suspended animation. The person calmly starts putting finishing touches to his final demise. Wills are written, reviewed, updated or revised at this stage. Involvement in spirituality also could help to calm the raging feelings of a near end of life situation.
Yes we must all die one day, but how psychologically prepared are we to accept the inevitable. Always be medically guided.
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