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wundayatta's avatar

Any good tips for dying?

Asked by wundayatta (58377 points ) July 29th, 2009

I don’t want to add too much detail, because I’m hoping for people to respond viscerally. Can you prepare to die? If so, how do you do it? Can you tell us any stories of deaths done well or poorly?

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55 Answers

kenmc's avatar

Do it right or don’t do it at all.

hug_of_war's avatar

Get your affairs in order beforehand so your family doesn’t have to stress about the legal stuff so much.

nebule's avatar

um…are you ok Daloon?

Chongalicious's avatar

Have you ever watched the TLC series The Boy Who Had No Skin? (or the title was somwhere along those lines…). The point to this is that this “boy” was 32 years old; and he knew he was going to die. He had been born with a flesh-eating disease which was very severe and required him so have constand bandaging all over his body. He planned his own feuneral. He told everyone he loved that they’d better not cry at his feuneral, because he wanted it to be a happy day where everyone simply remembered his life, and all the good times. He had a mural of a tiger painted on his caskette to symbolize strength, and his favorite song by Queen was to be played.
For me, this was a well planned death if there ever was one.

augustlan's avatar

Live your life well, dying well will follow.

On a more practical note, make decisions well in advance. Hospice at home? Hospital or Nursing Home? Life support or no?

Grisaille's avatar

Crap, I had wrote something and accidentally deleted it.

Posting this here so I can remember to post, later.

erniefernandez's avatar

Look around. Find someone who will not die and ask them what they do to make it happen.

When you fail, get over it, and live your life.

Jude's avatar

@augustlan I think that augustlan summed it up well. My Mom opted to stay in the hospital, as opposed to going home or going to a hospice. She felt more “secure” there (she was worried about pain control and the quality of care.).

Also, she didn’t want to be overwhelmed with people coming by the hospital when she dying. People weren’t respecting her wishes (because they wanted to see her), but, she was so ill and it was just too hard. She was okay with having her immediate family there, though.

Also, make sure that the family knows your wishes (resuscitation, cremation, open casket). Our Mom didn’t let us know until the last two days off her life—mentally, she was “in and out”, and you would get brief periods to where she was coherent. That’s when she whispered to us “no open casket” and “cremation”. Also, she said “no tears” and “Rootbeer and a big party for everyone”. :) While she was in the hospital, rootbeer was the only thing that she could tolerate drinking.

SuperMouse's avatar

My grandmother’s death was peaceful and might even be called beautiful. She was 92 years old, she was at peace, she was surrounded by family. For days before she died we had been telling her that we would all be fine, that it was ok for her to let go. We all were able to tell her goodbye and that we loved her. We were so serious! On the day she died we had all lightened up, we were being silly and joking around, that is when she finally felt ready to go. She was an amazing woman and had a very lighthearted approach to life, when she saw the rest of us relaxing and lightening up she knew for sure we really would be alright. I want to go like my grandmother went.

My mother’s death is on the other end of the spectrum for me, probably because I was so young at the time. My mother wanted to die at home – this was before at-home hospice care became well known. What that meant for a twelve year-old me was that I watched her deteriorate daily – and in the end hourly – right before my eyes. I watched the doctor try to find a vein on her emaciated arms, I saw her try to sit up and talk when she barely had the energy to breathe. I knew she was dying and it was a very unpleasant experience. I believe that this is the reason I was so terrified of death and dying for so long. To this day I wish she had gone to the hospital.

Jude's avatar

The last few days, our Mom went into a coma and we played music (her favorite music). According to the doctor, she was still able to hear. We whispered into her ear that we loved her, but, that it was okay to go; that we’d be alright.

She loved having her feet rubbed. I remember my grandma loved having her feet rubbed, as well. It was very comforting.

wundayatta's avatar

@SuperMouse Those are some interesting stories. It makes me wonder if there is a way to die in front of your children, and not have them wish you had done it somewhere else.

I guess I should have put this in the details, but this question was inspired by my misreading of another question (Any good tips for tie-dying?) It is not inspired by anything particularly new in my life.

I have always been anxious about dying. I don’t want to die, but I know it’s inevitable. I hope to prolong it’s appearance in my life (and concomitant disappearance of my life) as long as possible. My problem is that I have no idea how to come to that state in which I could die peacefully or even beautifully, as @SuperMouse‘s grandmother did. That is my goal, though, and the tips I would like are about how to achieve that kind of acceptance, or even gracefulness, when the time comes.

Dog's avatar

@daloon Glad you added your inspiration. Your abnormally brief description and the subject was a bit disturbing in combination.

dUc0N's avatar

@augustlan @jmah
Very good points raised by both of you.

@daloon – The most important legal tool to get this type of thing handled is called an Advance Health care Directive (also frequently called a Living Will). In it, you can specify all the things you want to happen if you lose the ability to express your decisions. Life support or no? Hospice? Do you want them to try CPR, or let you go? You should consult with a lawyer on getting one drawn up alongside your will.

janbb's avatar

An advance health care directive is important but in my experience the choices are rarely as clear cut in real life as they seem when you are drawing up your directive. Thus, as well as that document, it is important to appoint a “health care proxy” who is authorized to make treatment decisions for you if you are incapacitated. It is important to have both documents drawn up and accessible; if you need to go to the hospital, they should be brought with you. When my Dad was hospitalized for a broken hip at age 89 (he died 10 days later in his nursing home), the nurse asked us to go back home and get his Living Will.

I have often worried about death; more about the dying part than the being dead. I recently realized that the scariest part of it for me was of being in pain and I told my husband that was a great concern of mine and that in the event he was taking care of me, I would want to be as painfree as possible. Making that statement has aleviated my fears somewhat. Also, since the things I worry about rarely come to pass, I think the way I am imagining my death – a long painful decline – may not be the way it happens at all.

dee1313's avatar

@hug_of_war That includes passwords if you pay bills online. Really, your main email password should do the trick as most places will send emails to reset passwords.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Write letters to your children first

galileogirl's avatar

Live the best life you can and to give the witnesses hope, my last words will be “Oh NOW I get it”

marinelife's avatar

Having a Health Care Directive does no good unless your family members are acquainted in advance with its terms and with whom you have given the power to make your decisions.

Also, hospice, hospice, hospice. I cannot tell how wonderful they are compared to hospitals when the time comes.

@daloon Not surprising. As a culture, we work very hard to ignore death and assume we will be the one who makes it out alive.

Did you know that at the turn of the century most people reported dying at home and without pain? That is not true of our own times.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

go out with a bang no sense in dying in bed.

avalmez's avatar

there are of course the legal and fnancial steps to take in preparation for death and to some small extent completing those steps can relieve some anxiety about death. but, i would bet that having completed those steps, few if any people think very much about their details when confronted with the approach of death.

i guess @Daloon you’re wondering more about how one prepares to face their certain demise as it approaches. i’ve witnessed 5 of my loved ones go through the process called “actively dying”, 4 of them knowing they had entered that process.

fortunately, each of them went through the process with surprisingly little anxiety. in each case, i would say they had had their share of suffering the effects of the diseases that led to their deaths and so to some extent welcomed what they anticipated would be the end of their suffering. i’m sure it’s quite different when death occurs suddenly (as due to an accident). But you’re question really doesn’t apply to such cases.

i guess where i am concerned, i wouldn’t say i fear death at this point in my life. while i am still relatively young, i know my family will be taken care of and my assets protected (the legal and financial steps are complete).

while i expect to meet my creator, i don’t fear a vengeful judgmental god who will take account of each and every one of the wrongs i’ve committed in this life. and if i do meet my creator but my expectations are wrong, then so be it because it’s too late at that point!

on the other hand, if it turns out there is nothing after this life, then again, so be it! i’ll certainly be neither greatly chagrined about my expectations nor any wiser for their having gone awry.

i guess my point is that it might help to understand what your worries or fears about death are in order to confront them in a positive way. if it’s about the process, educate yourself about the process. Sherwin B. Nuland wrote a book on the topic titled How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter that was a bestseller a few years and which i would recommend if you haven’t already read it.

if it’s about where we end up after death, then there again, you have answers that best suit you and in this regard only you can chart out a course of action – that’s all any of us can do, to have lived our lives in the most decent and honorable manner possible, and to have been true to ourselves.

that’s enough of my drivel – hope this was of some help to you!

YARNLADY's avatar

When my time comes, I just want to go to sleep one night, and never wake up again. I try to keep my affairs in order at all times. Hubby has all our important things on the computer, and we have our wills all nice and legal. He even has a disc in the safe deposit box (with the paper wills) which has all the computer info on it, updated regularly.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I also figure it’d be easier for me to die if my love has died already, because I’d want to join him (even if I won’t get to)...it’d be way harder to die if he is still alive…i couldn’t bear the pain in his face

Jack79's avatar

Jumped off a balcony. I obviously failed, which was a good thing since a successful attempt would have been quite messy….splat!

wundayatta's avatar

I’m not worried about what happens after death, since I think death is the end. Period. What I’m worried about is the thought that I will not get to find out what happens next. Life is one long story, and, like Scheherazade, I hope to keep the King’s threat (death) at bay by leaving cliffhangers all over the place.

The thing is, they never talk about the night that Scheherazade’s story is no longer compelling. I think that an actual death sentence with a specific date and time is much worse than an indeterminate one, especially if death steals you away while you’re sleeping. You’ll never notice what’s going on (or not going on).

But if you did have a death sentence—specific date and time, and all—would you be able to face it calmly? No fighting? Or would you struggle and kick and fight until you couldn’t any more? Would you be angry as consciousness slipped away? Does it matter if you go in anger, or go in peace, since once you’re gone, you’re gone?

Blondesjon's avatar

Make absolutely certain that the color you want to use is the color you want to use.

The dying process is usually permanent.

bcstrummer's avatar

Be creative but within reality

filmfann's avatar

Okay, here is one no one covered:
If you live alone, and in California, don’t die at home.
If you are trying to sell a house in California, you have to disclose whether anyone has died in the house in the last 3 years. Big headache for the survivors.

cak's avatar

I’ve been in that boat before. Sitting on one side of a desk being told that I’m not going to live. In fact, more than once. I did died on the operating table. One thing I figured out, don’t deny your family the right to be there with you or to say what they need to say. Don’t let pride stand in the way. Cry, laugh, hug, yell…whatever needs to be done. Do it. Plan what you want done to you, when you do die. It’s not far for those left behind. Plan for what you want, if you are gravely ill – don’t leave it on your family to guess whether you want to live on a machine or not.

Most importantly, every second that you have to live – do it. Don’t waste your time on the what ifs and dissecting every single last detail of life. If you spend your time doing that, you are wasting your time.

Dying is a process. It’s not just one step. We start dying the day we are born. When it comes to the point where we really are dying…just don’t deny yourself the emotions you need to express. Don’t deny your loved ones.

wundayatta's avatar

@Blondesjon I think you got the wrong question. This is the one you want.
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Said in the most deadpan tone of voice possible :-)

Blondesjon's avatar

@daloon . . .I actually dropped a tear on that one…thank you.

YARNLADY's avatar

@daloon Or maybe not

lillycoyote's avatar

The times I’ve thought about this I’ve imagined that it was kind of an “on the job” training situation.

wildpotato's avatar

I dislike the idea of the end of existence quite a bit. Ever since I have found myself living with an awareness of the constant possibility of death, I have enjoyed life more.

There are three things that make the idea of death easier to bear. I have smoked yopo, a legal herb that contains DMT. This is a chemical that is released in large amounts upon death and near-death. If dying feels like DMT, then it will be very nice – like a warm liquid sliding back from behind the eyes and down the spine.

The movie Waking Life gives me reason to believe that the final few seconds of brain-death may be an extremely worthwhile experience.

I read philosophy: it shows you different ways to consider what death is and how to approach it. I love Plato’s Phaedo best on this topic: it’s the dialogue where Socrates drinks the hemlock, choosing to die rather than to escape Athens. Socrates’ final argument for the soul’s immortality: “The cause of life can never not exist, or not be in its absolute form, alive. That which brings life, or soul, can never be the opposite form (dead) of what it always is. There is no possibility for the soul to be anything but always alive, always bringing life” (Phaedo 105c-e). This makes sense to me, and it makes me wonder about whether he might be right. On the other hand, Heidegger would probably say that this is an evasive way of Being-towards-death (see Being and Time)...Heidegger’s no-nonsense approach makes me considerably more nervous, because he says that to do anything but face and accept death is to live less than fully.

lillycoyote's avatar

@daloon Both my parents and the parents of friends of mine have all died without their children in the room, sometimes in uncanny ways, as though they made a conscious choice to die when their children wouldn’t have to witness it.

avalmez's avatar

@daloon your statement that death is the end period, but that you are worried about what comes after next is a contradiction. perhaps you need to confront that contradiction to alleviate your concerns about death.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

i’m no expert, but i think that if you have anything – well, that you’d like to keep discreet – you should have someone you’re close to agree to get rid of it asap. i guess that doesn’t apply to everyone, but regardless of what it is, sometimes you don’t want the people who are still alive to see something you wanted to keep private, and sometimes that’s probably for the best.
also, it’s probably a nice idea to keep a journal or scrapbook or something throughout your entire life – one of the pros being that, after you’re gone, there’s something for your loved ones to see, to see your perspective on life, to remember things, etc.
oh, and then i guess there’s a bunch of legal junk. meh.

augustlan's avatar

@avalmez I’m not positive, but I think Daloon is worried about missing what goes on here (Earth) after his death, not about an afterlife.

avalmez's avatar

@augustlan of course your correct. i retract my statement.

wundayatta's avatar

@augustlan Thanks. That is exactly what I meant.

bea2345's avatar

Recently I had surgery. In view of my age, I thought it wise to prepare a will, using a will form borrowed from my mother. Well, now I am home again, and as soon as I can get about, I will go to a lawyer and get it properly done. The thing is, there is not much planning you can do, unless you have reason to know your life expectancy. But you can arrange matters so that your dependents, family and friends are not left in difficulty when settling your affairs.

As for wondering what death is like: I seldom dwell on it. When I am depressed, it scares me to no good and when I am not depressed it seems pointless.

YARNLADY's avatar

Spike TV is currently running a series called 1,000 ways to die.

Nially_Bob's avatar

Die with something to live for.

Nially_Bob's avatar

@lillycoyote
“The times I’ve thought about this I’ve imagined that it was kind of an “on the job” training situation.”
Reading that sentence made me think of one of those low budget work training videos: “So you want to die?: A Guide to Safety at the Workplace”

VS's avatar

Wills, living wills, end of life desires, special requests for cremation, funeral arrangements, etc. should all be made known to your expected survivors. When Terry Schiavo was going through the death process, it prompted me to make certain things known and desires about what I wanted and didn’t want, outlined in legal documents, so there could be no confusion about what I actually want and don’t want done. I certainly do not want to be kept alive by any artificial means, and I do want to be cremated. No open caskets, no matter how good looking a corpse I leave. I do not want any kind of religious ceremony to send me into the after-life, but I would love for someone to sing “Forever Young” and for my friends and family to gather and raise a glass in celebration of my life.

Zen's avatar

My vote for best question of the month.

Just_Justine's avatar

I have read a lot of the works of Elisabeth Kubler Ross who studied dying. She also wrote a beautiful book of people dying of terminal illness, it seemed the closer to death the subjects came the more serene and peaceful they were.

Just_Justine's avatar

p.s. I need some good tips for living!!

wundayatta's avatar

@Just_Justine it seemed the closer to death the subjects came the more serene and peaceful they were.

I don’t know why, but there’s something about this idea that really scares me. Isn’t that weird? I know acceptance is helpful—because death is inevitable, but…. [creepy feeling running up back]

Just_Justine's avatar

@wundayatta she took photos of the subjects, and I can truly say they looked beautiful the closer they came to death. There was a light in their eyes. I cannot explain it, perhaps look at the book. It is very visual. This of course does not apply to sudden death.

wundayatta's avatar

<=== Still scared. Surely irrational, but there it is.

janbb's avatar

If it’s any help, my Dad was crotchety til the end. I saw no lighti n his eyes.

Coloma's avatar

I think the best death is an unexpected death. lol

But..usually one has some advance knowledge their end is near.

I don’t worry about this sort of thing at all, of course I am not dying right now, well..I am, we all are. haha

My life is already fairly simple so I see no need to make plans at this time.

I think it’s best to just go…with the flow. lol

Pandora's avatar

I don’t know if its really possible to die gracefully. Its not like you have a choice when your number is up.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

You don’t want to know and would refuse to believe it anyhow…..so…......

YARNLADY's avatar

With any kind of dying, the lasting effects are felt by those who remain in the living realm.

The act of dying will occur for every living thing, and can come at any time, so there is no need to prepare for it. My grandmother woke up every morning of her last 15 years, which she spent with her youngest son and his wife, asking “God, what is your will for me today? I want to come home.” She passed away at the age of 97.

Since I don’t believe in God or a higher power, I will just while away my days as best as I can.

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