Dying the Way One Lives

Dec 3, 2009 | 0 comments

There’s a great blog post on Psychology Today‘s site, in The Mystery of Happiness written by T. Byram Karasu, M.D., Silverman Professor of Psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He has some very good observations about humans and their perceptions of death. Most importantly, he said, “One can fully live one’s life by recognizing its end, by focusing on death at the healthier times.”

Here’s the intro:


Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud

Freud said that we do not have a concept of death and dying until the age of eight. I think it is more likely that not until fifty do we begin to understand that this life is limited and we are running out of time. We may experience the death of parents, and even some friends, and begin to experience the failing of our own bodies-weakened vision and hearing, reduced physical rigor, and increased aches and pains, all of which forces us to wonder about ultimate loss. Sort of.

What prevents us from fully experiencing the possibility of death is an indescribable dread of no longer being. This applies not only to people who are comfortable and healthy but also to those who are sick and miserable. By any objective criteria, those whose lives may be considered not worth living will dread dying.

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying tells us that we should die peacefully, without grasping, especially if the cause of death is the exhaustion of our natural life span; a human being is like a lamp that has run out of oil. But when the need to prolong life is no longer warranted, we still make every effort to avert death. We make concessions, promises, and bargains with God, confess our wrongdoings, and ask for forgiveness. We still die. We die without full understanding of death, without truly experiencing it. Therefore, we forfeit this most powerful event of our lives, because we don’t want to face the inevitable. The process of dying also must be lived.

A Good Goodbye