The Enlightened Way to Face Death (with the Tibetan Book of the Dead) – Deborah King

How to help someone have a “good” death

Your most important duty is to help keep the dying person’s mind happy and calm. If the person is more comfortable with the Catholic rosary or Seinfeld reruns than Tibetan Buddhism, don’t create anxiety by reading “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” to them, no matter how good a guide to dying you think it is. But you can introduce spiritual thoughts or soothing music; whatever they want is the key.

Do your best not to cling emotionally to the dying person, no matter how fond you are of them and how much their leave-taking dismays you, keeping in mind, it’s not about you. It’s so much harder to let go when someone is holding you back emotionally. Instead, encourage them to move on without fear, and express openness to sharing their pain, fear, joy, or love. You don’t have to talk. Just be with them.

It has been my experience that for 3 or 4 week after a person dies, they are still connected to their recent life. It’s a good time to continue silent communication, to finish up any old business, to say more goodbyes, to keep encouraging them to let go further, and move on.

What about your own mortality?

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who wrote the groundbreaking book “On Death and Dying” said: “It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth, and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, we will then begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.” She pioneered the concept of providing psychological counseling to the dying and described five stages she believed those who were nearing death experienced: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.

One of the main advantages of contemplating your own death is that it becomes less scary. Whenever you stand up to your fears—and fear of death is certainly a huge one—you shift into the state of allowing whatever is to just be. And contemplating your own death also promotes what psychologists call the “legacy motive”—a sense of generosity and desire to make the world a better place before you sign off from this life.

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