These psychological reactions can, and often do, form part of the dying process. So, too, might other emotions such as shock, disbelief, a sense of loss, or feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. A dying person can be acutely aware of current losses, such as the loss of health, mobility and independence but may well grieve future, anticipated losses, such as the loss of family, friends, a future and life itself. These are all natural responses. Through her work, Elaine has witnessed the uniqueness of each person in this process, and their emotional experiences differ not only with regard to what they experience but also in the intensity, duration, regularity and timing of these emotions. Some of these feelings may occur simultaneously. As with one’s personal journey through life, the end-of-life journey is unique.
One’s end-of-life journey is a deeply personal process that is influenced by emotional, physical, social and spiritual forces. It involves shifts, changes, key personal experiences and decisive moments. It also offers opportunities to enjoy a quality and fullness of living within the limitations faced. In the midst of this journey’s challenges lies the opportunity for personal growth, breakthroughs, positive and purposeful behaviour, and transformation. The end-of-life journey is a time during which precious opportunities may be seized and savoured, a positive sense of the ‘completion of life’ can be experienced, and a receptivity to profound moments is possible. The dying person may embark on a search for meaning, and for insights into life’s purpose, as they move towards a personal level of readiness for the end of life. Although it is a journey that may require one to face fear or uncertainty, through love, acceptance, growth and hope, one can ease the experience of these emotions and transform one’s relationship with the dying process and with death itself. It is a time when one may choose to explore one’s perception of death and one’s understanding of it. Some focus on a particular spiritual philosophy or religion, others anchor their exploration in their inner guidance and experience, and some reach out for support as they turn to face the end of life.
Within the context of inevitability, the end-of-life journey can also be a process of choice. Dying is not death, it is the life before it, and how one chooses to live it is a personal decision. Dying involves choices. Choosing to live life fully, and with courage, in the context of one’s physiological condition and limitations; choosing to bring love, meaning, richness and value into this time of one’s life, moment by moment; choosing serenity through completion; and choosing to explore one’s understanding of, and relationship with, death are all significant choices that, for many, will be there to be made.