Please help me understand

  1. My father died recently (cancer). Something spiritual seemed to happen as cancer progressed (virtually his family members would pray for something, the answer would come from other family members that were unaware of original prayer, my 4 year old would see "angels"/floating objects that followed family members, etc). Anyway, this seemed relevant to my father's preparation for death (he was angry with God and had some unfinished issues--these incidences eventually seemed to pave the way to acceptance/forgiveness of some sort.)

    I'm desperate to understand how important religion is at death, or specific religions even. It seems that nurses often view patients of all faiths having similar positive visions. I'd really like to know if nurses (based on experience) feel a certain faith is necessary for a positive, spiritual/supernatural (talking to dead people, seeing angels, etc.) death experience . Or does it seem that "God" makes himself visible to all at death? And what about evil experiences (those that are fearful or see "demons")? Are these mostly seen in people afraid of death or that have unfinished business? And why are there so many ghost stories in allnurses? Could these be souls that didn't make it to the light? Or could they be real demons?

    I know these are loaded questions, but I'm asking as many nurses as I can. ANY thoughts are helpful! Trying to understand my dad's death seems to be a major part of my healing process. I'm going crazy with these thoughts. URGGGH! If I discuss it with church members, I virtually hear : the good things are from God, all bad things (what's considered bad by their theology is from the devil). So if a Christian had a positive death and saw relatives than they went to heaven, but if an "unsaved person" had the same experience it is because the devil is tricking us.) Thus, I want to go to the people that witness death first hand.
    Thanks so much.
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    About missingmydad

    Joined: Apr '11; Posts: 13; Likes: 8


  3. by   systoly
    This seems to be very dear and important to you. My suggestion is to seek answers via a face to face rather than online. Also, you may not want to limit yourself to nurses. Clergy not only deal with this, but are often experts in counseling.
  4. by   SilentfadesRPA
    Your questions are beyond me personally.

    I have been over the years with 100s of patients who have died - some beautiful experiences others ones of terror and lacking hope - a belief system or lacking of one sure seems to have something to do with this.

    However noting your avantar of a broken heart and your name "missing my dad" I see and feel your pain. I offer you my sincere condolences and wishes that over time that your pain eases. I hope your memories bring you comfort and ease your angst.

  5. by   purplesteth
    I'm really sorry to hear about your dad, and that he's not with you any more. You obviously cared for him very much.

    I think religion is a very personal thing. I think many people turn to religion because they feel it gives them a purpose in life; however some people may be very driven by other things - volunteering, their children, friendships - and not feel the same need for religion.

    I am not religious, and have never felt the need to turn to God even when I was going through hard times. I was very moved recently by the Italian peace activist Vittorio Arrigoni (who was killed in Gaza) - for him, the important thing was not his own self-realisation, but helping other people. And that's how I feel. I've always dedicated myself to voluntary work, to my friends, to my animals, and I've come to realise this is what makes me happy, it's what makes me feel fulfilled. I can't have children either, but feel that my purpose in life is another, to help others; maybe that's why I'm going into nursing. Although I don't feel this calling has come from God; it's just what life has carved out for me. It's the path I have to follow.

    Sorry... I'm rambling. What I'm trying to say is that religion is as important - or as unimportant - as each person feels it to be. I don't agree with the concepts of heaven and hell either; to me the Bible is so full of contradictions as to be meaningless. I don't mean any disrespect to anyone, it's just my personal opinion.

    I'm sorry I don't have any direct experiences with death to offer you; hopefully what I've written will help you in some way.

    Hugs xx
  6. by   tyvin
    Each patient is individual in their belief be it religious or not; I've dealt with many of both demeanor's. The skill of the Hospice nurse comes in having the patient accept what's coming is IMO the most important aspect of the job.

    I have had Buddhist, Catholics, Atheists, Agnostics, etc...most of them went to the other side calm. All my people were family focused right at the end expect for a few who grasped their individual beliefs; perhaps I am lucky in this aspect but my patient population has been mainly Japanese who are for the large part Buddhist.

    God is there if the patient wants him there. No one particular belief system helps people go to the other side any differently. Evil?........I have not seen it. Everyone goes to where they think they should go whether it be gold paved streets with pearly gates, some return to earth, then others are fine with being part of the repeating ecosystem. That's the beauty of death; you get to decide.
  7. by   taalyn_1
    If you are asking about the things people who are actively dieing see, say they see, or "feel" when they are passing, I would say several things play in how that unfolds. It is my opinion that as our body starts shutting down, our mind begins to play on autopilot. If you have a lot of guilt, fear, been abused or something similar, your mind may project those negative images. But if you are at peace, have resolved any issues, arent fearful, your mind may project more pleasant thoughts as it is shutting systems down.

    If a person was raised to believe that they are "bad" people and been told repeatedly they are going to hell, then yeah the mind could project demons/fire or something like that, due to the fear, as it is shutting down.

    I honestly do not know if there is a God or not. I like to think there is though but my belief in God is totally left of center from the christian "norm". I do not know what happens when someone dies except for the physiology of the process. No one knows until their last breath is taken and all systems are at rest. I think the mind just kindof goes into a dream/reality loop with some people and thats why they say they see angels, demons, bright lights etc etc... just a guess really though.
  8. by   sugarmagnoliaRN
    First, I am truly sorry for the loss of your father.

    I was thinking about dealing with death just yesterday and found a post on here that included this link:

    It's an assessment about your personal views on death and dying, and it's helpful in understanding how you'll cope and come to terms with it.
  9. by   canesdukegirl
    When I am caring for a pt who is near death, I ALWAYS focus on whatever the pt needs. If their religion is important to them, and if they request certain things of me, I will do so FOR THEM. For example, a family just a few days ago asked me to lead them in prayer before I took their loved one back for surgery. As a general rule, I keep my faith extremely private. I do not pray in public, and I do not attend church because I believe that my faith is one of the most intimate and intangible facets of who I am. I took the focus off of myself and my feelings of awkwardness and focused on what my patient needed from me at the time. The family and the pt were extremely grateful, and I was happy that I was able to provide some comfort to them.

    Another pt that I was caring for on the Onc unit believed in the healing power of crystals. I don't subscribe to that belief myself...but again, it's not about ME. She had crystals all over her room. Hanging from the ceiling, above her door, above her bed, all over the windows. She stated that she derived some sort of healing power from them, so I was not about to hinder that belief or make any kind of negative comments about them. In fact, I brought her a crystal that my aunt had given me when I was a child.

    I hesitate to share any visions that my patients have had, simply because those are the most intimate moments of their lives. It doesn't matter what their beliefs is such a private and delicate process. I respect and honor that privacy.

    Does that make sense?
  10. by   rkitty198
    I lost my mom 2 years ago- I was heartbroken.
    Since I had my baby (7months ago), the thought of death consumes me at times. I wonder what will happen to my son, what happens to me, what if I am gone will I still be able to see him? I think about it all of the time and when a patient dies at work it makes it a little more real for me.

    I am now seeing someone to help me with my grieving process. Not that it is for everyone, but it is helping me a lot.

    Our brains are so connected to "if it is seen, it is there." I don't think we can even begin to know what it is like on the other side, for two reasons: it is so wonderful that we would all want to end our lives here and our brains only see things in a certain dimension. Our minds work in a concrete way, and death is something that we canno't even fathom, because we don't know what it is like outside of our dimension. I think that death is something we as humans don't have the capability to understand.
    Caring for many people who have passed, I see the same things that you describe.
    Patients reach out for something, someone that isn't there. They talk about family members that have passed. They come to a point of peace about it. Some see lights above the bed, some see the passing of a loved one in a dream.
    I see death from all walks of life and a lot of these experiences seem to be pretty universal, regardless of religion or lack thereof.

    I think death is personal and what each one goes through is a mystery.
    I have had my moments with being angry with God. I spoke to a Chaplain about it and I was afraid that she would say the same things about death as you described. She was very open, non-judgemental and I was suprised by the response. I would say go talk to your church leader- I think you might be suprised. I think that if they are a good leader, then the response would be as positive as mine was.
  11. by   mc3
    I, too, think some face to face conversation with a pastor, or whomever you feel comfortable with, would help rather than us. I can say, though, that through my work with hospice, the worst death I ever saw happened to a very, very devout Catholic. His soul was just tormented. Yet the most peaceful death I ever saw was an agnostic. She was beautiful, and believed that when she died her soul would "go on a magic carpet ride around the world". What a sweet, sweet lady!
  12. by   amarilla
    I am a new nurse - coming up on my first year - but I can understand how you feel. I lost my dad when I was a child and I picked apart his passing, mostly for worry of what may have happened to him. He turned from the church as a young man, angry with God, and I stressed for years that perhaps he hadn't made his peace. His actual death didn't tell me much - he was vented post-stroke; after coming off, what was left of him just slipped away, like a candle going out. He was there and then empty, gone. Makes me cry to think about it, even now.

    I can't answer your question, of course; none of us here on earth really can, and I think you know that. IMO, this becomes more a question of your own faith and what *you* believe. I believe that my dad was a good person, that God looked within his heart at all those hardships and bitterness and washed them away in forgiveness; he passed in peace and surrounded by family who filtered in from all over the country. Couldn't ask for more mercy than what was received, in retrospect.

    All I can suggest is that you find someone who you can find some understanding and empathy with, no matter who that may turn out to be. Express your love and concern for your dad and your wishes / prayers that he be comfortable and happy in the next place, (wherever you may believe that to be.) Most of all - (personally) - I explored my own faith to try to develop a deeper trust with God, that I believe in salvation and trust that God saves us. I had to try to let my dad go, trusting that God was taking care of him.

    Good luck and I hope you find peace.
  13. by   missingmydad
    thank you all soooooo much. Yes, this is so hard. I guess I'm working on this aspect so that I can avoid grief, or else I suppose, so I can trust my religion and turn to it---maybe I'm a little frustrated with God--although please note, for anyone with any religion, I promise you "He" whomever he is--had a huge part in changing my father's attitude at death. There's something to be said for that.
    As far as one on one or clergy, that's where my problem is-- those of the Christian faith will tolerate my questions for awhile (yes, I'm Christian) but soon they get tired of my questions, especially those that can't be answered. I also know that for some my questions are threatening. I KNOW God exists, but I don't know how he could possibly send anyone to eternal hell. But then, why was it important to God for my father to come to terms with his anger/fear, etc.? I'm questioning Christianity's understanding of the bible right now, and nobody face to face is comfortable with that. So thanks for all the help everyone.

    I do want to tell everyone one wonderful experience from this. It was a terrible time when I prayed for God to send me angels (both my parents were in the hospital on serious terms). It was in the middle of the night, so no one knew about the prayer. Two hours later my 4 year old woke up, he started watching the ceiling and asking what was making "them" fly. There's a lot more to this, but they followed us for several weeks, only showing up where we were. I wasn't sure whether they were "Godly" or not, since my son couldn't properly describe them. So, I asked for a sign, a feather, just to know that they weren't something to be afraid of. Ten minutes later, I found a pink feather tucked in my shirt. My father died with a white feather on his chest. There's much more to this, (small feathers showing up in strange places especially upon request/reassurance) but after my father died my sister found a giant (6" white feather) in her newly washed bed sheets. A few weeks later, her daughter found one in her room too. I'm waiting desparately for my beautiful feather.

    Thanks so much for the responses, they are all very helpful!
  14. by   sweetnurse63
    Hi missingmydad; First of all i would like to say that i am sorry for your loss, i lost my dad too and i think of him at times, but he had cancer and i did not want him to suffer so, i was glad when God took him home because now i know that he is at peace. There are believers in God and non believers. I am so proud and thankful to say that I am a believer in God!!!. I know that he is with me in good times and in times of sadness. Just think of the human body which is sooooo magnificently made and all of the awesome body systems that work together to keep us going 24 hrs a day 365 days a year, no man could ever do this, There has to be one who is perfect in knowledge, wisdom and skill, certainly not man!!!!! I know there is a God!!!!!!!! and he cares for us through life and death