Understanding Death


For many of us, death is a new and disquieting experience marked by a lack of understanding of the process of death and the emotional turmoil that accompanies this experience.

No amount of preparation will lessen the grief of death, but a better understanding of the process can help you provide for those who are dying and their loved ones.

The resources listed below provide address a variety of topics ranging from a description of the process of dying to how assist the grieving and how to listen to the dying.

These resources, and those that may be provided by your religious community, will allow you to better cope with the emotional challenges we all face when confronted with death.


Annenberg Media, a Web site supported by the Annenberg Foundation, has excellent on-line videos addressing the topic of death. This series on videos consists of the following topics:

  • What is Death?
  • The Dying Person.
  • Facing Mortality.
  • The Deathbed.
  • Fear of Death and Dying.
  • Sudden Death.
  • A Child’s View of Death.
  • Grief and Bereavement.
  • Death Rituals.
  • The Good Death.

The National Council of Palliative Care Health and  Department of Health in England has published an inf0rmative brochure that is available on-line. This brochure contains information on the following:

  • The Fear of Death.
  • Death as a Medical Failure
  • What do People Need as They Near the End of Their Life?
  • How to Talk About Death and Dying.
  • How to Listen Well
  • The Dying Process
  • End of Life Experiences
  • What Should I do if I Can’t Be There?
  • What Happens Physically when Someone Dies?
  • When Death Happens.
  • Things Relatives Might Need to Think About.
  • Suggestions for Friends.

Coping with Events Near Death is a on-line handbook produced by Americans for  Better Care of the Dying. Included in this handbook are the following topics:

  • How to know if someone is close to death.
  • What to do when the death is close.
  • About being there at the moment of death.
  • How to determine if the person has died.
  • Decisions and activities after death.
  • Decisions about autopsies.
  • Estates and wills.

Spiritul Care as Death Approaches Late in Life (by Paul E. Irion). This is an essay addressing the role of hope as a spiritual component of end of life. An interesting essay that is useful for caregivers in understanding death and how to provide support and understanding of the dying and their need to address their view of death and the spiritual aspect of hope and a future beyond death.

(photo: terrabellastudios)