Comfortable with death

edited December 1969 in Personal Issues
Hey everybody, I have a couple questions. I know death is not a topic anybody likes to speak about but I am just having a really hard time. I would appreciate anybody sharing their personal experiences about the topic and more importantly the things they learned from the situation. Also if anybody is working in the medical field, please share how you overcome seeing death everyday and not having it affect you or bother you passed the hospital walls.
-How can one become comfortable with the concept of death?
-How can one get over death whether it be of a loved one or somebody you've never even known? ..especially with people you dont know if they went to paradise.

Thanks in advance everyone. Please keep me in your prayers.


  • Romans 14:8
    For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.

    1 Thessalonians 4:17-18
    Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them(the dead) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

    John 14:27
    "I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid."

    Personally my favorite:
    Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
    Deuteronomy 31:6

    Prayer is the best thing to do when in despair and grief, just talking to God is the best thing to do in all situations, in my opinion.

    Hopes this helps a bit somehow.
  • While not perfectly related to both your questions, I think the prayer and talk given at the funeral of the martyrs of Alexandria presents us the best way to look death, whether by martyrdom or any other way. We do not simply die and that is it, as though we do not have hope. Rather it is a departing, as the good Bishop rightly reminds us. And not departing as we know it, full of uncertainty and sadness and bitterness. It is departing to the greatest joy there is.

    We only die once, but we live forever with the Lord and His saints.

    As far as getting over the death of a loved one or another, this is not something I've mastered by any means, but neither do I feel that it is necessary to be okay with it in that way. It would be kind of hard to "get over" the fact that someone was among us and now they are not. But the way I've learned to look at it is that this is the flip side, if you will, of the same love with which we are created. We are born, and like children we just know this one state, and don't think about any other. That is the joy of being innocent. As we grow it dawns on us that, yes, people die, and eventually we will also die. At that point it might seem prudent to freak out. ;D But remembering the reason for our hope should calm that impulse, and anyway we have no say in the matter any more than we did in the matter of our birth. It is not cruel or a problem to be solved that we all go back to the dust. It is indeed just one of those things that happens. Not without reason, of course, but I mean that in the Old Testament times, people lived a lot longer. It seems unfair until you consider how much stuff God directly called on people to do! If it is your lot in life to wonder 40 years in the desert as an already old man, then as a person of faith you should take comfort in the fact that God has provided for you everything you need in order to do just that.

    The key, then, is in following Him. If you are alive for 40 years or 400, the measure of your life is the same. Speaking from my own personal experiences with death, I can say that while the impact of death never lessens (just like the impact of birth), the sting of it is certainly bittersweet. Bitter because I and the others who grieve can't make sense of what God is doing, and sweet because we don't really have to in order to know that the pain is momentary and overshadowed forever by the joy that awaits His servants in heaven.

    "Because I live, you will live also"...that really says it all!  :)
  • Beloved brother Stavroforus,

    If I may ask a question, after asking for the forgiveness of CopticStrength and dzheremi, as they have already posted on the matter... why do you feel that you need to become "comfortable with the concept of death?"

    Keep me in your continual prayers, as well as all of your brothers and sisters in Christ, as we all continue to struggle during the Lenten season,
  • -Thank you CopticStrength for the verses.

    -Thank you dzheremi for your insight. However, what I struggle with is not in the context of the person at all unfortunately (I guess I am heartless in this aspect). There is only very few people that the context of the person would matter a lot to me like my parents, brother and very close friends. Otherwise, its the concept of death that gets me. I guess I should clarify what I mean by the concept of death. More or less the thought that this person is gone forever hits really hard. I cant get over that. I know death is a good thing but with some people i dont know where they are going so I tend to find myself battling with God and defending them by telling God the good they have done to outweigh the bad and begging God to have mercy on their soul. Then in the hospital people go that are unbelievers, or lived their life far from Him. What happens then? I witnessed my first death in the hospital and moments after I was thinking to myself was the pain you were having and all the tubes coming out of every hole in your body was that the least of your worries or pains or just the beginning of many more? Are you enjoying "what no eye has seen nor ear has heard, neither has come upon the though of man" or the complete opposite? I wonder all of this and think about all the instances in the Bible where little things can deprive of us of the Kingdom. It almost seems like it is impossible to make it. I know nobody is worthy to enter heaven and God allows us in by His grace but whats the line to be safe or okay? I know He is fully just and fully merciful. On the scale I am fully condemned without a doubt, I dont know where these people stand either. I just feel thoroughly lost. I have the facts down about death, Gods mercy, paradise vs hades etc. However, I dont know how to be at peace about the topic. I have had several departed family members go in the past two months and upon witnessing a death it made me all the more lost and confused. I can't even point my finger about what it is thats making me so disturbed..

    -Thank you Childfororthodoxy. I would like to be comfortable with the concept of death because in the medical field I have to deal with it from day to day. I don't want to be depressed everyday because of what happens at my job(one day). I am not saying I want to be completely dull or insensitive about the topic but I just dont want to feel so hurt about it every time it happens. I saw the death 11 am (its 11 pm now) this morning and I haven't been able to focus on my huge amount of school work or anything since. I am simply unable to cease my thoughts and tears. I suppose I am just being childish..

    Thanks everyone, please feel free to comment about anything that I have said. I would appreciate all and any help. Please keep me in your prayers.
  • Finding The Strength To Go On by Fr. Anthony Messeh

    and if u dont like listening to Fr. Anthony's sermons, stop being a drama queen, keep the comments to yourself, stop posting worthless opinions, and let those who want to learn; learn.
  • [quote author=✞Stavroforos✞ link=topic=11191.msg135090#msg135090 date=1301810516]
    I would like to be comfortable with the concept of death because in the medical field I have to deal with it from day to day. I don't want to be depressed everyday because of what happens at my job(one day). I am not saying I want to be completely dull or insensitive about the topic but I just dont want to feel so hurt about it every time it happens. I saw the death 11 am (its 11 pm now) this morning and I haven't been able to focus on my huge amount of school work or anything since. I am simply unable to cease my thoughts and tears. I suppose I am just being childish..

    I don't think you're being childish at all. Death is hideous, it is an unutterable horror. We are spiritual beings - the bonds we form with those around us feel like they are supposed to go on forever. The love we have for our parents, the love parents have for their children, the love friends have for one another - these are bonds which were not designed to have a conclusion. God created us in His image; we are most like God when we love. I think if you look at the beauty of the love that surrounds you, in your family and friends, you can see why God loves us, and why we love God - because He is love. And that is why I think, we become so shattered when we must face the prospect of that eternal, divine bond of love being severed.

    It wreaks horrible pain on all of us, to see people we know we were supposed to love for eternity, taken from us. It is not fair. No relationship worth having was ever designed to be temporary and it is hideously, terribly cruel that we all must face the prospect of people we know and love dying.

    But that's the beautiful thing about Christianity - 'the last enemy that will be destroyed is death.' We hope that we will be together again, in a place where our bonds will not be hampered by ego or distance or language or culture. The ones we lose will be with us, and the bonds we form there will never end. We will pick up where we left off. And in that place, God will be with us more closely than ever before - because we will be more like Him than ever before.

    That's how I think of it. The relationships you have in this world are only a promise, like the set-up of a joke. The punch line comes later. God is leading us through the darkness of this world, in order to fulfil its promise in the next.

    Not even sure how much sense that made to you, but that is how I deal with it.

    God bless
  • Dear Stavroforus,

    Allow me first to begin by quoting a few verses from the Holy Bible:

    "And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him. Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him." (John 11:19-45)

    Often in our lives, when someone passes away, whether they are intimately close with us, or whether they are people that we briefly encounter, we attempt to "soften the blow" of having lost the person by quoting any of a number of cliches: "the person is now in a better place... they are no longer suffering... they are with God now." We note the following in John 11:1 "Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus." Lazarus himself must certainly have been in bodily pain, the sickness wearing his body down until he finally passed away from this life. One would imagine that, with all of the infirmities in this world, all of the pain and angst that must be endured, both in body and spirit, that passing away from this world should almost be embraced. It is as though it is an escape from the troubles and turmoils of the world, into the bosom of the Father.

    But if this is the case... why would Christ raise Lazarus again from the dead? Indeed, if we truly consider the situation in the terms that we have convinced ourselves to think throughout our lives, this would actually be a terrible thing to do. The man, having suffered through the struggles of this world, was finally "set free" from the bonds of the flesh and allowed to venture home to the Father. After his bodily death, he was no longer in a state where he could be dragged down by the fleshly temptations that plague so many of us. Why, then, would Christ bring him back?

    St. Cyril of Alexandria writes the following: "Certainly the Evangelist, seeing the tearless Nature weeping, is astonished, although the suffering was peculiar to the flesh, and not suitable to the Godhead. And the Lord weeps, seeing the man made in His own image marred by corruption, that He may put an end to our tears. For for this cause He also died, even that we may be delivered from death. And He weeps a little, and straightway checks His tears; lest He might seem to be at all cruel and inhuman, and at the same time instructing us not to give way overmuch in grief for the dead. For it is one thing to be influenced by sympathy, and another to be effeminate and unmanly. For this cause therefore He permitted His own flesh to weep a little, although it was in its nature tearless and incapable of any grief, so far as regards its own nature. And even they who hate the Lord, admire His tears. For they who follow philosophy to an extreme and have a brilliant reputation therein, shed tears with the greatest reluctance, as overcoming by manly vigour every misfortune. And the Jews thought that He wept on account of the death of Lazarus, but He wept out of compassion for all humanity, not bewailing Lazarus only, but understanding that which happens to all, that the whole of humanity is made subject to death, having justly fallen under so great a penalty. And others, being wounded by envy, said nothing good; for in truth they did not find fault with the Lord for suffering Lazarus to die; for this would have been the language of men who believed that He was able to stay death: but they almost speak thus: "Where is Thy might, O Wonder-worker? For behold, even when Thou wert unwilling, He who was beloved by Thee has died. For that Thou didst love him is evident from Thy weeping. If therefore that which was done to the blind man was the work of Thy might, Thou wouldst be able also to stay death, which is a similar deed beyond the nature of man." As malignantly rejoicing therefore, because they saw His glory in a manner diminished, they say this."

    What, then, do we make of this? Surely, we can all agree that man was not created to die, but to live in the image and likeness of God, in a life continually striving towards becoming more and more perfect, an life ever-growing towards God. Man, having fallen from this, was left in a state of death, both a spiritual one, and an unavoidable physical one. When a fellow man dies, we are certainly brought to feelings of sympathy; such feelings are not sinful or wrong, as Christ Himself experienced them. This was no mere act or play on behalf of the spectators; Christ, though He knew before the ages that He would raise Lazarus from the dead, still felt sympathy for his death, that is to say, for all of our deaths, for the state which the humanity dragged itself down to. We are not meant to let ourselves go over into indeterminate levels of grief over the loss of our fellow man, but death is not something that we are supposed to simply be "okay" with. Death is not "okay." Man was not made to die. We must recognize this. To show that we were not meant for this, Life Himself raised Lazarus back to life.

    It is, of course, very difficult to deal with the concept of death, but we must not desensitize ourselves to it. Death is a consequence of the fall of man, a fall which is abhorrent to the original purpose of our creation. If we did not feel anything when someone died, if we did not recognize that this was not what man was meant for, but simply another stepping stone in our lives, then we have lost ourselves to the world, thinking that what we see around us in the world is what man was made for. Man was made by Life for life in Life.

    We should be ever prayerful for our own deaths, as our great fathers, the monks, strive to constantly remind themselves. Do not concern yourself with the judgment of those who pass, but rather, pray for their salvation, not in worry and despair, but in loving hope. Not only are we spiritual beings, but we were made to have bodies; the loss of one or the other was not what we were created for.

    Remember me in your prayers, as we near the end of the Lenten season and towards the reminder of our hope in the Resurrection, the Way, the Life,
  • lovely post  :)
    i deal with dying people often (at work), and i used to just try to blank it out and not think about it a lot.
    but this is how those who are not Christians cope; we have a better way.

    now i pray at the start of each day, and i believe God really gives everyone chances to repent.
    it's not just at the end of their lives, but all through their lives.
    you can read about it in romans chapters 1 to 5, how even those who never hear about God experience Him in the wonder of creation.
    when my friend's mum was dying, i saw her suffer a lot and she often looked really stressed, even when she was only partly conscious. then the priest visited, then she got a bit better, and then i was able to see that she was much more peaceful before she died. i believe God was working in her, and she had a lot of things to think about and that's why she looked so stressed for a while. but praise God she was closer to God and much more peaceful after that.
    so sometimes people have to go through a difficult time as God speaks to their heart.

    the hardest thing is watching someone who is not Christian die, especially when they are cursing their relatives or God, (or us the staff!) and seeing that they are resisting God in their last days. but we know God is just, and if someone keeps rejecting Him, they will not be saved.

    saint paul said 'to live is Christ and to die is gain' (phil 1:21).
    let us live like him, and like our Saviour and best example Jesus Christ, so that we start to look forward happily to the time we die  :)
  • One can never be comfortable about being around death.
    One cannot avoid death.

    One can only live, and continue to live.

    A simple word I learned from my priest, which was also the epithet for his mausoleum.  It is from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Philippians:  "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

    Christ is Life.

    Each one has to find their own formula on how they cope with this issue.

    I guess one has to retreat to an "infant" existence and just lean on the Bosom of the Father; the Father Who is in Heaven.  You will not find better Succor or Comfort than His Holy Spirit.
  • In follow-up to childoforthodoxy's comments.  My feeling for the most profound verse in the Bible:  "Jesus wept" is complete AWE.
  • These replies are beautiful.

    John 11
    23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
    24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
    25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

    Death is hard to accept especially for those who care for others, even if they think they are blunt and don't care. It is not easy but we believe in resurrection and consider death as a 'big sleep'. We do call sleeping the 'small death'.

    It helps a lot when you pray for the terminally ill or dying patient before her/his time of death, that God may light their remaining time with His grace to die in His peace (praying both for a miraculous healing and for their difficult waiting, all according to God's Will) and also after they die. We pray with Hope for all those who are 'asleep'. You can add this very personal spiritual component to palliative care. It is also important to pray for yourself every time God allows you witness death, asking Him His forgiveness, His comfort and His guidance.

    I think this is a good practice and a constant reminder to us His children of His everlasting true promise of Salvation. May God strengthen all His children, protect them and help them become His blessed good witnesses.

  • Stavroforos,

    Listen to this:

    You're going to love it :)

    I'll upload part 2-4 later.
  • this is less related to coping with death, but rather related to learning from death.

    As you should know by now, death is imminent, quick, and sudden - and does not discriminate.  So not only should we use that to motivate ourselves to fill our time with life , but we should also view it as precious time to be a light to others.  Think of a non christian that you have, and imagine he suddenly passes away and he unfortunately is not saved, despite all the time you spent with him and all your opportunities to 'shine your light' that you had with him
    I unfortunately had to deal with this experience, and this was definitely on my mind - although i can not say how God judged him, it still hurt me.
    However, this should be applied to your daily life in general.

    I know this isnt that revolutionary, but i figured it wouldnt hurt to add.
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