Are older people afraid of dying?

Dealing with the fear of dying and death

No, dying and death are not just associated with sadness. As clinic chaplains, Christiane Bindseil and her colleague Karin Lackus experienced how enriching it is for their lives to accompany dying people. In the process, the pastors also learned of the patients' fears, which they encounter with empathy. They wrote a book about their experiences.

In her professional practice, Pastor Christiane Bindseil encounters issues that many would prefer to avoid: dying and death. As a hospital chaplain, she accompanies terminally ill and dying people. At the same time, she seems anything but down. The cheerful woman tells what the experiences of dying have done for her: “I hope that this will help me deal with life a little more calmly. I often ask myself: What is really important in life? Is it really worth getting excited about this or that? ”She and her clinical pastoral colleague Karin Lackus talk about her experiences with the dying in the book“ I'm fine, I'm dying. ”In fact, Pastor Bindseil confirms that it is also cheerful Moments on the ward give "Yes, we laugh a lot." In the book, she tells of a 60-year-old cancer patient who joked with the doctor the day before his death: "The weather is so nice, I'll go hiking tomorrow."

“Nobody regrets having not cleaned enough” - impulses for life

Dying people also leave a message for those in the midst of life who have to make decisions on a daily basis. Pastor Bindseil reports: “I have never had a patient who would have regretted not cleaning enough or not working enough.” That is why she suggests putting yourself in the shoes of the end of life and thinking about how I would get out of it Perspective evaluate the things that concern me today? “This can lead to the fact that you are already setting the course a little differently, setting other priorities in life,” the pastor experienced.

Human relationships are central

Christiane Bindseil also learned in the conversations what is particularly preoccupying the dying: “Very often it is about relationships.” The terminally ill people also address relationships that were not happy. Be it broken contacts with the children or with siblings. “Something remains painful,” says the pastor, describing her impression. Many patients expressed the desire to tell their life again, to give some account of them. Before they die, some take action because they want to heal the broken relationship. "It is a great gift when it is actually possible to reconcile at the end of life," says Christiane Bindseil. In the book she tells of a cancer patient who had a long-time friend from school. They were like brothers. But then they had fallen irreconcilably over some money. Decades later, the patient was actually able to find his friend on the Internet from the bedside. Then the book tells: "The old new friend came almost every day for almost three weeks" until the patient died. The pastor also experienced: “Unfortunately, there are also situations that do not end in a conciliatory way. Sometimes one tries to approach the other - and the other cannot accept it. ”Nevertheless, it could be a personal relief to have even made the attempt. The clinic chaplain names the challenge that those involved then face: “It is important to accept that there are things that simply did not turn out well in the end. This wish can then be given up and placed in other hands. "

Dealing with fears

Even if the authors would like to contribute with their book to bring the subject of "dying and death" further out of the taboo zone, they know that there are fears that must be taken seriously.

Countering the fear of pain: Include palliative care

"The fear of pain is often a much bigger problem than the actual pain," Pastor Bindseil learned. She explains: “Today, medicine has pain under control in the last phase of life, because palliative medicine has made a lot of progress.” But she has also experienced situations in which patients were confronted with pain. She remains confident: “But such cases are becoming increasingly rare.” She recommends looking for a hospital or a palliative ward at an early stage where doctors and nurses can competently treat pain.

Countering the fear of losing control: Strengthening basic trust in life

Clinic pastor Bindseil experienced with her patients: “When we die, we are not in control of the processes that then take place. Even if it can be medically influenced, there are things that we can no longer control. ”And this loss of control could trigger fear. This is the challenge awaiting the dying. She makes it clear: "This is dying: putting things down." In order to feel a little more secure, patients could first consider how they would like to shape the situation when the time comes. However, one should not have too precise an idea, as it often turns out differently than expected. Above all, a basic trust in life itself is helpful. Thoughtfully, the pastor says: "It is a gift if you succeed in arriving at the end of life with the basic trust that it was and will be good."

Confronting the fear of death: Believing that everything will be fine after death

Enjoying the sun, kissing your partner, hugging the children - all of this is over when death has occurred. That is why Pastor Bindseil often encounters patients who suffer from fear of death. She shows great understanding for this: “It is completely natural to be afraid because we don't know what will come afterwards. It's like jumping in at the deep end. ”Nonetheless, her own Protestant Christian tradition allows her to look confidently to the end of life:“ I can only do my work because I have the deep conviction that after death everything will be fine, that we will be caught. ”It is not excluded to quarrel with death, even Jesus on the cross cried out his uncertainty and despair. But his story did not end there; it led to the resurrection. The pastor discovered a description of her positive expectation in the revelation text of the Bible. There it says: "God will wipe away all the tears from their eyes, and there will be no more death, neither will there be sorrow nor outcry nor pain." (Rev 21: 4) How the life after death will look like in detail, don't know either. “It will probably be things that we cannot grasp with the senses that we have now. I'll be surprised, ”said Christiane Bindseil. She remembers a down-to-earth and deeply religious station helper who wears her heart on her tongue. Together with the patient, you paint the comforting concept of the hereafter from the revelation text very concretely. So she fantasized with a terminally ill, formerly enthusiastic cyclist, how he would race up and down the clouds. "Everyone knows that these are only pictures, but they express deep trust and help the patients," observed the pastor.