Chapter excerpt from Learning How to Let Go The Signs and Symptoms of the Dying Process, Mary Beth Willi, LPN
NOTE: This is an excerpt from the booklet that was at the Hospice Center where my mom was making her final transition. The Center offered it to all to be able to learn and understand what they were going through and help navigate through it.
There is life changing insight in this book for everyone!
If we checked lab work on the dying patients most would already be incompatible with life, yet they are still here. Why?
The common thought in watching someone in the dying process is that they are suffering just waiting to die. The truth is that they can't go until they have completed a Life Review. That is why they are still here.
The process of the Life Review is mixed in between all of the different signs and symptoms that the body goes through. Life Review starts at the beginning of their lives and goes through the present.
Most patients do this in their sleep because it is much easier to do asleep. Some are so scared when this process starts that they gith the sleep. They think, "If I don't sleep then the dreams will stop." This is true for a while, but they can't stop the dreams forever.
If they refuse to sleep then they will have to do the dreams awake and it can cause the patient to become very agitated, paranoid, combative, have nightmares or hallucinations that scare rather than comfort them.
The Life Review is seeing and feeling hurtful and joyful events of their life. Even the importance of seemingly insignificant events they didn't realize at the time. Life Review includes all the things they stuffed down inside (bury) so they didn't have to deal with it at the time.
For example, there are always 3 sides to any good or bad story; your side, my side and the truth. Life Review is seeing each event from the truth angle. Life Review is about recognizing the lessons they needed to learn... not to be righteous and judgmental, to remain a hurt victim, to send them to heaven, hell, or whatever belief they were taught.
To just see the lessons to be learned, taking responsibility, forgive someone, forgive yourself, see the good in yourself, in others, and get answers to questions you had. In a nutshell, take a really good hard honest look at yourself and your life. Most people face their Life Review like they faced everyday changes in their lives.
Some do it quickly, others take their time, and some fight it before settling down and just doing it. Only once, have I watched someone fight to the very end.
Attitude has a lot to do with how easy or difficult their life review is. If they go into the dreams with a positive attitude it will be a positive experience. If they go into the dreams afraid then it will be scary. Most are afraid in the beginning and then become calm. It's hard to realize you have to face how you hurt someone and to feel the pan you caused. The rest is easy compared to that.
The number one request from my patients when they were afraid was "Honey could you please sit here for a while and hold my hand until I fall asleep?" It was always better if it was family member because they could stay longer.
We can tell if someone is Life Reviewing by watching and listening to them. In the early stages they are withdrawing form the world and sleeping more. They complain of being so weak and unable to stay awake very long. Their eyes are clear and they an focus on you. they will be able to carry on a conversation while awake. They will awaken to eat but the appetite is usually not their normal. Do not force them to eat or stay awake if they don't' want to.
Please let their yes be yes, and no be no.
My first question is usually, "Are you dreaming?" The responses are amazing. some will talk all about what they are doing and others never say a word. The more we believe them and can get into their world, the more they will share with us.
Upon awakening they can seem confused to us because "they are talking off the wall" about what they were doing or who they were seeing.
Since Life Review is usually done while they are asleep we will notice rapid eye movement, a deep furrowing in the area between the eyebrows, hands can pick at things in the air (sometimes we can ell what they are dreaming about just by watching their hands) or they pull at the covers, or try to take their pajamas off.
There are times they talk out loud and we can understand what they are saying. Other times their speech is very garbled and we can't understand anything they are say8ing. Sometimes their mouth moves but there is no sound coming out. They will cock their had to one side and nod yes or no as if in deep conversation with someone. I have heard them often complain, "I'm so busy!" when they are awakened for care.
From, Learning How to Let Go The Signs and Symptoms of the Dying Process,
by Mary Beth Willi LPN