Death & Dying Articles, Research & Resources
Alana LunaLast updated:
Erin L. George, MFTMedical editor
Approximately 3.3 million people died in the United States in 2020. (1) That’s about 1,000 deaths for every 100,000 people in the United States. Each person that passed away left behind a group of grieving loved ones who had to find ways to cope with loss. In some cases, it’s the dying person themselves struggling with grief as they come to terms with their own mortality.
Death, dying, and grief are enormously impactful subjects that touch on everything from the state of health care and overall wellness to religion and spirituality. Finding healthy ways to tackle these weighty subjects is crucial, but it’s also important to understand that there’s no one right way to come to terms with death and grief.
MONDAY, Feb. 9, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say they have identified eight specific physical signs that strongly indicate that someone with advanced cancer is entering the last days of life. The investigators focused on telltale signs that a patient has, at most, just three days to live. The... Read More
MONDAY, Feb. 2, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- For a growing number of Americans, the final year of life is marked by pain, depression and other distressing symptoms, a new study finds. Experts said the study, published Feb. 2 in Annals of Internal Medicine, highlights disturbing shortcomings in the U... Read More
FRIDAY, Dec. 5, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Already-strong public support for right-to-die legislation has grown even stronger in the days since the planned death of 29-year-old brain cancer patient Brittany Maynard, a new HealthDay/Harris Poll has found. An overwhelming 74 percent of American adults now believe that terminally ill patients... Read More
My father died suddenly three weeks ago. He and I were very close and I could never have imagined what life would be like without... Read More
I have two daughters with a fatal disease. I have had anxiety since their diagnosis in 2003. I started out with Xanax, .025 mg and... Read More
I have recently lost a son due to medical error and I am currently in therapy. I am struggling with the feelings of longing for... Read More
In honor of Older Americans Month, I’ve made it my mission to provide some helpful information about staying well in our later years as well as to dispel some... Read More
“He died of a broken heart.” This is the sentiment often used to describe the sad event of a husband dying soon after losing his wife. The opposite... Read More
Hospice is one of those words that we tiptoe around, afraid that by saying it too loudly, we might call forth its need. Yet hospice is nothing to be frightened... Read More
Death comes with a tangle of complicated emotions, but it also comes with a surprising amount of paperwork. Whether someone is overseeing their own end-of-life preparations or caregivers are attending to the personal and legal checklist after another person’s sudden passing, there’s much to be done, including: (2)
There are experts who can help make this process easier, and in many cases, those experts are also required to plan funerals, file and notarize paperwork, and execute wills.
Palliative care is highly specialized medical care for people who are seriously ill. (3) The focus is on improving quality of life. Type of care varies depending on the case, with caregivers often providing people suffering from heart failure, dementia, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and other chronic conditions with everything from medical assistance to support with activities of daily living (ADL).
Hospice care is end-of-life care for people with terminal illnesses. (4) There is no long-term effort put into finding healing, but rather, it's based on finding ways to lessen pain, increase comfort, and attend to the patient’s physical, social, and spiritual needs.
Death rites, funeral types, and burial options differ between religions and cultures. (5) Christian practices typically involve burying the body whole to allow for physical resurrection. Islam also believes in physical resurrection, with preparers washing the body, wrapping it in a simple white shroud, and burying it as quickly as possible. Hindus believe only the atman (aka “self”) is reincarnated, so cremation takes precedence.
There has also been a recent trend toward more progressive burial options. (6) For the first time in U.S. history, cremation rates have surpassed traditional burials. Water cremation is making headlines, and environmentally conscious individuals may choose to have a green burial featuring a biodegradable container instead of a classic casket.
While it’s absolutely normal to experience grief after the death of a loved one, this grief or bereavement period can have a hefty impact on mental health.
Grief often comes in five stages, each with associated signs and issues: (7)
These stages are not always experienced in order. Some people may skip steps while others experience multiple stages simultaneously. There are no right or wrong answers to the way a person experiences each grief stage as people grieve differently.
Losing a loved one can be a tragic, heart-rending experience. Even “typical” grief patterns can negatively impact personal lives and professional obligations, so it’s vital to explore different coping techniques and seek support.
Research shows that one of the best ways to cope with loss is to combine social support and health habits with the natural passage of time. (8) Suggestions include:
As challenging as it is to navigate grief first-hand, it can be as challenging or even more difficult to help someone who is experiencing a loss of their own. The best way to support someone who is grieving is to be present and open to whatever they need. (9)
That might mean:
Anyone struggling with their own mortality or the death of a loved one should know that they can reach out for professional help at any time or look for local support groups for additional empathy and assistance.