Five Stages of Preparing for Death

Five Stages of Preparing for Death

By Barbara Gould @2001gould

Preparing for an approaching death can be terrifying if you have no idea what to expect, both physically and emotionally. As the dying process enters its final stages there are two different dynamics at work.

The physical aspect concerns the body as it begins its final process of shutting down; this ends the physical systems' functioning.

The other dynamic is the emotional, mental and spiritual area which is a different process. This is where the spirit of the dying individual begins to slip away from its immediate environment and attachments. This release tends to follow its own priorities when it comes to letting go; of family members, unfinished business of a personal nature and/or unreconciled problems.

You have all heard people tell about how someone on their death bed refused to let go until a certain member of the family was able to get there. Even when the body is trying to shut down the spirit hangs on until a resolution is reached. It is as though the dying person needs permission to go; needs to feel that he has achieved the support and acceptance of his fate by those he leaves behind. This way he can slip into the next dimension of life with grace and dignity.

There are FIVE stages of dying.

There is in all of us a curiosity about dying. Regardless of your religious beliefs there have to be some doubts or shadows of uncertainty. There are five stages involved, some have time to proceed into each stage and come to a peaceful resolve.

DENIAL: I'm too young to die. I'm not ready to die (is anyone ever really ready?). You don't just get up some morning and say, "Well, I'm ready to die today". Even when a physician informs one that nothing can be done for them the feeling that some mistake must have been made is in the dying person's mind. The prediction from ones physician of imminent death can do several things. It can give you time to prepare, take care of business, close doors, make amends. The shock begins to ebb as you come to grips with approaching death.

ANGER: Suddenly you are not in control of your life, or death. You have no are going to die. You have always known this, no one has come out and stated it as a fact before. It makes you angry, you feel so helpless especially at first, then guilt climbs upon your back Anger is directed at everyone and no one in particular. It is a sense of loss of control which is likely not a new feeling if you have endured a long illness. It is normal. Anger is in its own, a sense of strength. It can also be debilitating.

BARGAINING: You are willing now to compromise. No use denying it, anger comes and goes so perhaps you can make a deal with God! You are willing to promise to do or not to do specific things if only you can be given more time. It can be based on an upcoming event that is important to you. You can be suffering from insecurities regarding a member of your family or a loved one who you feel is yet dependent on you. There can be a rift that has never been eliminated that needs to be further addressed. You are not free to go until these reasons can be alleviated once and for all. You are hoping yet and eager to deal!

DEPRESSION: This is such a normal part of the process of preparing to die. You are already depressed about your incapability's in dealing with responsibility, projects and the situation of every day life. Symptoms of terminal illness are impossible to ignore. You are fully aware that death is inevitable. Aware, angry and filled with sorrow and here again the culprit of guilt sneaks in as you mourn for yourself and the pain that this is causing you family and loved ones. Another totally NORMAL phase.

ACCEPTANCE: This comes after you work though the numerous conflicts and feelings that death brings. You can succumb to the inevitable as you become more tired and weakness hangs on. You become less emotional, calmness arrives and banishes fear along with joy or sadness. You realize the battle is almost over and now it's really alright for you to die.

Hospice defines acceptance...

Acceptance is NOT: doing nothing, defeat, resignation or submission.

Acceptance IS: coming to terms with reality. It is accepting that the world will still go on without you. Death is after all, just a part of LIFE. 

If this article was helpful, you may also enjoy:

Coping with Tragedy, Loss, & Grief
Dealing With Grief, Guild and Gratuity
Grieving Takes Many Forms


About the Author:

Barbara Gould is an on-line Columnist and author of "Weird Old Woman Down The Road, and Other Minor Observations." She has other poetry, short stories and articles on aging available. You may contact her at Or visit her at The Senior Courier or

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