God and the Dying Patient

  1. It has been my experience in the Oncology setting that patient's and their families are drawn closer to God through various religious expressions when certain death is the prognosis and is imminent.

    Why is that?

    -HBS
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  2. 24 Comments

  3. by   nurseygrrl
    I feel that people look to God mostly when they are out of control in a situation. I don't think it's only at death's door but also at other times. If I get a small cut on my hand, I know that if I keep it clean and cover it to protect it from infection, 99.9% of the time it will go away and I'll be fine. I am in control. In situations like birth, death, severe illness, those are in God's hands and when people realize that, they become closer to God.
  4. by   SmilingBluEyes
    If one has a belief in Afterlife and G-d, why would they NOT seek the comfort of knowing he/she is going "home" and want to be met by his/her Creator?

    I liken it to knowing you will go to nursing school and suddenly developing a strong desire to talk to any and all current students and nurses about what it will be like. People want to know what to expect. They want to be embraced and welcomed where they are going. This includes after we die.

    People want to "go on" somehow----especially we who believe in an everlasting soul. So many questions about the afterlife, G-d, "Heaven" or the "Other Side" remain in our finite human minds that NO ONE ALIVE has been able to satisfactorily answer. There is always doubt, wonderment, fear, joy, all the emotions that go with any major life event-----also go with death.

    I think it's obvious why people seek their G-d, Creator, Deity, Goddess, whomever their belief systems hold that awaits them once they pass; heck it seems as natural as drawing air. We want to KNOW there IS something after we stop living our time on Earth. It's a universal question and quest.............one even secular science endlessly tries to answer. Yet no one alive CAN. All the true answers await only after we die.
  5. by   CCU NRS
    By expression do you mean like "God bless you" or like the picture you posted? I feel like when death is immenent people feel they should be closer to God and or some religious belief and may at that time try to find peace.
  6. by   hbscott
    I have seen many "deathbed" conversions of self-proclaimed agnostics and atheists in my past Oncology settings. This was certainly not true for all my patients but I can safely say this was true for most my patients who were facing imminent death and found themselves motivated to make peace with family, other loved ones, and "God" no matter how he may be perceived.

    I have seen so many different expressions of Faith it would be difficult to list and expand on them all. Suffice to say the point I was trying to make is that I have witnessed many "unbelievers" have a change of heart on their deathbed.

    The subject of God and religion is once again on the minds of many due to recent events in the world and media. Just thought I would raise the question by the point illustrated above.

    -HBS
    Last edit by hbscott on Mar 1, '04
  7. by   heart queen
    Having nursed in an ICU setting and loosing many patients as well as having open discussions about impending death with many...

    I see an equal mix.... certainly not a statistical analysis by any means

    Some focus on righting "wrongs" and focusing on how their family will cope with their dying. They have accepted (to the extent that anyone can) that death is imminent, and they fear for their loved ones suffering... to the point that several have refused DNR's, although they personally wished it but because their family was not ready to let go, they were coded.

    The other side are those that share having reached "peace" and acceptance in their fate, through religious means or soul searching and pass peacefully which is just beautiful to see. Along with a patient that I'll never forget that asked me "Is that the sunrise?" yes I answered, "God bless, isn't it beautiful that he let me live through the night to see it"

    Now I deal with long term heart failure and post cardiac transplant patients. Many, Many, of those "WAITING" find thier own GOD to see them through their struggle.

    I'm a bit bothered by some who "forget their new religion" after receiving a life saving heart... but again, this is a personal struggle not to judge, as my 25 yr. old newly transplanted "reborn" christain, tells the minister she doesn't feel like talking and orders out a PIZZA yelling at me that she'll "eat what ever the hell I want" and her God has disappeared as quickly as her heart was transplanted.

    Sounding a bit sour on the topic and I appologize. I've been blessed to have wittnesed those that found their God and allowed them to pass in peace. Lately, I'm becominig a cynic.... which I've always been anyway.... in the most ironic of settings... people given a SECOND chance to live.

    So I do have both sides. The irony is that now that I participate in "giving a new life", I see so many just ditching their religion as soon as their needs are met, my 25 yr. old is just one of many.
  8. by   PJMommy
    This thread reminds me of something our pastor says: "At the end of your rope is where Jesus is."

    So often, people (and I was one of them) have to hit rock bottom - the end of the rope - total misery and loss of control -- then they realize that they really aren't in control.
  9. by   Spidey's mom
    Death is a scary idea, even for those of us who believe in God and an afterlife in heaven. It seems natural to me that people who are in all kinds of different places in their lives regarding spiritual things would reach out to "God" in a time of fear or anger or sadness.

    Personality traits have been ingrained. The ruts run deep. A conversion to whatever "God" you choose does not (usually) instantaneously make someone a different person. If you've generally been a pessimistic person with a grumpy demeanor or a demanding person, it may take time for God to whittle down those traits. I'm not sure I'd judge a person by their behavior, especially after such a life-altering experience as near death. It is probably a confusing time. No one really knows a person's heart except God and He is more tender and compassionate and patient than most of us.

    It seems to me that even having a relationship with our spouse takes hard work. We take those we love for granted pretty easily, especially if things are going well. It takes hard work to take the focus off of "me" and to direct that outward. Towards spouse, children, parents, friends, God.

    Hbscott . . . your question about why? I guess I'd reiterate that it seems natural to me.

    steph (thanks for these questions by the way - very interesting responses)
  10. by   heart queen
    PJmommy, yep, I agree with you 100%. Although I am lucky enough to never have been personally tested.... which is why I hate that judgemental side of myself.... never walked that mile! And as you say, our patients don't really have too much controll, medical advances be damed... when it's your time... it's your time. I can't change that, with my experience, skills, and 2 crash carts! I am the code Queen hear me roar! When it's your time... that's it.

    My current position has led me on a philosophical journey , which is why I was drawn to this post, because after being at the end of the proverbial rope.... few are choosing continue the path they started.... which to share is a path (God), that I've swore off years ago. My ICU days made me question my need for spirituality, in the general sense.... started going to church with my daughter... and to see those, challenged greater than I can imagine.. given a second chance only to turn their backs on their beliefs once their personal needs are fufilled...... well... it's challenging., no disheartning. (sorry for the poor spelling. )

    If those that have suffered through the worst, don't hold the faith....
  11. by   hbscott
    Quote from stevielynn
    Hbscott . . . your question about why? I guess I'd reiterate that it seems natural to me.
    Understood. I was raising the question in response to other threads that have been started recently. I was curious to see what others thought on this particular phenomenon that was illustrated above. It seems to me that so many people in this world are divided by the concept of God and the religion that embraces a particular conceptual ideological paradigm but in "the end" we tend to be very spiritual regardless of that diversity.

    -HBS
    Last edit by hbscott on Mar 1, '04
  12. by   Spidey's mom
    Gosh, there are so many examples of people who have held on to their faith that I have a hard time understanding focusing on the ones who don't. There are many "famous" stories and then everyday stories out there. Corrie Ten Boom comes to mind . .. prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp but came out of it at peace with God and with forgiveness in her heart and then such an example to thousands of others.

    Here locally a young couple who decided to carry their child to term rather than abort when they found out she had multiple birth defects that would kill her at birth. They held her after she was born until she died. It was difficult but quite moving to them. Same couple just miscarried. Still hanging on to the Lord.

    Please don't get discouraged and focus on those who seem to stray . . .you really don't know what is in their hearts.

    steph
  13. by   chris_at_lucas_RN
    Interesting topic--and one that has been hashed and rehashed through the ages by persons more able than me.

    "There are no atheists in foxholes."

    I've heard that, while "good" people see white light and wonderful things at the end of their lives (based on reports of those who have "come back"), those who have been "bad" tend to experience very nasty, negative things, like people pinching and hitting them, calling them names, nipping at them.

    I've also heard that the expression of humility and asking for God's help stops all the nipping, etc.

    Since I see God in every living thing, and get a lot of joy from it, my only sadness is that some don't get that until the very end. On the other hand, better late than never?
  14. by   hbscott
    Thanks for all the responses. I think we all agree that Faith is important. What grieves me most is when people of various persuasions start thumping their chest boosting that they have all the answers and do so at the detriment of others. These are the people I avoid if at all possible.

    "But now abide faith, hope, love, these three." (1st Corinthians 13:13).

    -HBS


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