In a recent Wall Street Journal article, “A Better Journey to the Final Exit,” reviews three books that address interesting issues regarding illness and death.
While these two subjects are often painfully uncomfortable topics of discussion, three authors confront specific issues that may help prepare us for the “final exit”.
The first book, “Happier Endings,” by Erica Brown proposes that even joy and inspiration can come from death. She shares stories of how other cultures deal with death through rituals or spiritual traditions in order to prepare and accept death’s inevitability.
Another book, “In the Kingdom of the Sick,” sheds light on the social history of chronic illness in America. Laurie Edwards, a science writer who suffers from chronic illnesses herself, seeks to bridge a communication gap—between society and the chronically ill.
After extensive research, the book questions whether stress, depression and anxiety (fueled by purported medical information on the Internet) create psychosomatic patients who merely believe they have certain illnesses or whether their ” stress and depression might result from the isolation and anxiety of having legitimate symptoms dismissed. If patients felt more supported and doctors “less besieged” in their first encounters in the doctor’s office, Ms. Edward says, physician-patient collaboration could narrow the gulf between patient and healer.” Read More…
The last book, Letty Cottin Pogrebin’s “How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick,” is a guide to bedside manner for friends and family. She explains that while most family and friends mean no harm when trying to console or talk to loved one who is ill, many commit major bedside manner faux pas out of discomfort.
In her recent essay, “What to Say to a Friend Who’s Ill,” she provides a detailed account of inappropriate things people say to their ill friends out of nervousness and discomfort. She also provides a list of the “10 Commandments for Conversing with a Sick Friend” :
1. Rejoice at their good news. Don’t minimize their bad news.
2. Treat your sick friends as you always did—but never forget their changed circumstance.
3. Avoid self-referential comments.
4. Don’t assume, verify.
5. Get the facts straight before you open your mouth
6. Help your sick friend feel useful.
7. Don’t infantilize the patient.
8. Think twice before giving advice. .
9. Let patients who are terminally ill set the conversational agenda.
10. Don’t pressure them to practice ‘positive thinking.’