Tuesday, January 7, 2020

End-of-Life, Afterlife Views (Research, Video 2:28)

Older adults have several perspectives regarding life after the death of a loved one. Their perspectives can be used by nurses to improve their insights regarding the care they give hospice patients. End-of-life research on how the death of a significant other influenced older adults' perspectives about their own end-of-life is helpful. 

This research involved 15 older adults residing in a continuing care retirement community. Their challenges in losing a loved one revealed these four themes:
1)    Peacefully-slip away with no heroics
2)    Familiarity-making plans that stick
3)    Tying up loose ends-what's left to do
4)    Accepting-my time is up.

This study implies that nurses with medical providers should openly discuss with older adults their end-of-life concerns and care desired.

Curious about what my own hospice patient’s perspective was about life beyond death, I asked her about that and included our conversation in my book Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer inUrban Nursing Homes. I refer to life after death as the Other Side of Through.

Many people believe in life after death. For them, death is a comma, a pause proceeded by a dash into another dimension of life. Others say that life as we know it while living is all there is to existence. They consider death to be a period at the end of the final sentence in their life stories.

One day, my patient named Mabel (pseudonym) received a birthday card from her church members. This led to an interesting conversation about life after death.

“Were you active in your church?” I asked.

“Well, not too much. I helped out with a few fundraising activities like the annual church bazaar. I usually worked at the ticket booth. I didn’t want to be too active because I have my own personal views about religion. I don’t see religion the way most of my church people see it, so I stayed kind of low-key. Religion is fine, but I don’t believe in God. I only believe in Jesus.”

“Really? Why is that?”

“Jesus was a person in real life. People saw him and wrote down what he did and what he said as part of history. I know that Jesus existed. He was right there walking and talking in front of people. Nobody can deny that. But God is different. Nobody has really seen him. Nobody knows how he looks or even what he is. That’s why I don’t believe in God. But I definitely believe in my Jesus.”

“What about heaven, Mabel? What do you think of that?”

“If there is no God, then there is no heaven. It wouldn’t make sense to have a heaven without God. That’s how I see it.”

“What do you think happens after people die?”

“What do I think happens? Nothing. They get buried, and their problems are over. Their problems end, and ours continue.”

© Frances Shani Parker

Mabel’s belief about life after death is one of numerous opinions that people have. Many have thought about the possibility of immortality. They connect it with a soul, reward, and punishment. Some have lived their lives according to those beliefs. For those who believe in an afterlife, there is often a spiritual motivation linked with nature’s cycles of birth and death. They embrace the mystery with faith and decide there is no spiritual death, only a change in their immortal soul’s experience.

Of course, there are others who say they don’t know what to believe. Scientific research on near-death experiences and other death-related phenomena continues to accumulate data to shed new light on discussions about life after death. Ultimately, people have to decide for themselves what they want to believe.

Suzanne Newcombe, lecturer in religious studies at The Open University says,We are profoundly ignorant about many things in life. What happens after death is just one of them.” This video further explains people’s beliefs about death and the afterlife.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer inUrban Nursing Homes
is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.

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