Opinion Words of wisdom: What dying can teach us about living - Parts 1 & 2 - ehospice


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Words of wisdom: What dying can teach us about living – Parts 1 & 2

Categories: Opinion.
During Dying Matters Week Royal Trinity Hospice released a series of four blogs, sharing reflections on the experiences of some members of staff and patients and the insights they have gained about what is most important in life through their encounters with dying. We are pleased to be sharing them in ehospice with their kind permission over two weeks.

So, what does dying teach us about Living – Part 1 – Bucket Lists

The words “bucket list” can be inspirational but can also stir up some anxiety. It is a reminder of our own mortality, what if we never achieve all the things we put on our list? But, the reminder that our time is limited can be seen as a gift. It pushes us to identify what is most important to us and to catch our dreams before it is too late. Let’s hear what some staff members at Trinity have learnt about bucket lists from working with dying people and their loved ones. 

Amy (Consultant in Palliative Medicine)

‘In my experience, these conversations often happen during a wider discussion about a patient’s wishes and preferences and what is important to them. For example, it might be that the person is desperate to attend a family wedding/birthday/graduation ceremony or to go on holiday to a certain destination before they die. I think the key lesson I have learnt is, as far as possible, not to defer any life events that are really important, and to take opportunities as they arise.’

Vincent (Healthcare Assistant)

‘It seems to me that when people approach the final chapter of their life, things like having missed out on certain opportunities or not having been able to achieve certain tasks tend to lose relevance. This is truer still for material things (e.g. never having made much money and not having had items of luxury), and less true for social and spiritual achievements (such as experiencing redemption or having reconnected with estranged friends and relatives).’

Abbey (Clinical Nurse Specialist)

‘Doing this job does remind you that life can be really short and it’s so important to make plans, and make sure you are thinking about life outside of work.’

Maria (IPU Charge Nurse)

On working with our patients, a piece of wisdom that Maria has found through time spent with them is about the present – honouring the moment rather than focusing on the past or future. It is also something she will refer to when going into a patient’s room. ‘Nothing else is more important than this moment. This moment won’t come again. For whatever reason we have been thrown together in this moment.’


What dying can teach us about living – Part 2 – Forgiveness

Mahatma Ghandi once said: The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” That is because forgiving is hard. Whether that is forgiving someone who has hurt you or forgiving yourself. 

However, it is important to remember that carrying negative feelings around with you robs you of energy and takes a toll on your body, mind, and spirit. When faced with death, many people reflect on the things that they regret or hold resentment for, and giving or seeking forgiveness can help people to feel at peace at the end of their life.

So, what have members of the Trinity staff learnt from supporting people at this point in their life? And what can we all learn from their insights?

Amy (Consultant in Palliative Medicine)

‘I think this can be challenging and sadly for some patients the dying process amplifies a range of challenges in their personal relationships.

This can include estrangement from family and friends and conflict regarding financial arrangements including leaving a will. For those patients who understand and accept that they are dying, this can be an important time to heal rifts with family and friends and to resolve issues that have been troubling them for some time.’

Vincent (Healthcare Assistant)

‘I think that one of the greatest struggles of coming to terms with having to die is to forgive yourself.

Forgiveness from others is important too, but essentially it is about how we feel about ourselves that we need to carry with us until the very end.

Maybe we have people that we want to forgive before we go – then we will want to do so in one way or another, even if we don’t get to see them physically.

Ultimately, it is about being able to let go.’

David (Healthcare Assistant)

Always try to make peace with any family member. None of us know what is around the corner, we always need someone by our side.



Parts 3 & 4 will be published in The Editorial edition on June 5th.


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