Posts Tagged ‘Death’

Normally we think of grief as deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death. But grief can happen when we lose a job or when we suffer the loss of a limb, or the loss of health or mobility.


The experience of grief is unique to every person. No one can or should tell you how long you should grieve for a loss. There is no specific period of time for how long you should grieve or a prescribed way for how to grieve. Going through grief is painful, dark, heavy. It crushes you, hurts you, squeezes your energy and your soul. Jesus, as He was facing His own death, felt grief sucking the life out of Him so He told His disciples: “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.” Mark 14:34 (NLT2)


During the tender journey of grief, take care of the essentials to sustain life. Eat healthy food, drink plenty of water, get enough rest, spend time with family and friends. Only time will make grief more bearable, but we will come out to the light at the other end.

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Not every word has a good connotation. We rarely think of death as a source of happiness. Perhaps when an enemy dies, ending the suffering they’re causing us, we may find relief. But anytime death refers to someone we care about, a loved one, it brings with it pain and sadness.


Unfortunately, we hear about tragedy and death so often in the news that it has become commonplace. For Adam and Eve, who had never experienced it before, it was tragically traumatic. Ellen White writes that, “As they witnessed in drooping flower and falling leaf the first signs of decay, Adam and his companion mourned more deeply than men now mourn over their dead.” (PP 62)


Death is sad, painful, and tragic, and it is even more so if it happens to someone we love deeply. The only light at the end of this sad, dark tunnel, is the hope that we will meet them again. Paul, speaking about the second coming of Jesus, writes, “Comfort one another with these words” 1 Thess.4:16-18 (NKJV).


Death is part of life, but is not the end, not for those who believe in Jesus.

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Loneliness shortens life

And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Genesis 2:18 (NKJV)


According to Peter Russell[i], from WebMD, writes that “being lonely can trigger cellular changes in your body that increase your chances of getting ill and not living as long as you could have.”  Past research suggests that the risk applies to older people.  Since that is the case, we need to look at and treat loneliness as a major health problem.

In the new study, which was conducted by a combined team of researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of California, they found that loneliness can trigger the body’s fight-or-flight response, which can affect the production of white blood cells and eventually undermine the immune system.

In essence, explained the researchers, “lonely people have a weaker immune system and higher levels of inflammation than people who aren’t lonely. Their health is also more vulnerable because they feel threatened.”

Loneliness is not a normal part of getting older, contrary to what many people believe.  The truth is that it not only makes life miserable, but it can also have a serious impact on your physical and mental health.  It is sad that, “Research shows that more than a million older people say they haven’t spoken to a friend, neighbor or family member for over a month, and unless we act, our rapidly aging population we’ll see ever greater numbers of lonely older people.”

We don’t have to let older family, friends, or neighbors be lonely.  We all can do something as simple as checking up on them, especially during this festive season, but also year round.

Listen to these words,” Many are suffering from maladies of the soul far more than from diseases of the body, and they will find no relief until they come to Christ, the wellspring of life…Christ is the mighty Healer of the sin-sick soul…They need to be patiently and kindly yet earnestly taught how to throw open the windows of the soul and let the sunlight of God’s love come in. Complaints of weariness, loneliness, and dissatisfaction will then cease. Satisfying joys will give vigor to the mind and health and vital energy to the body.”[ii]


Father, remind me to care for those who are lonely.

[i] http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20151124/loneliness-death?ecd=wnl_men_120115&ctr=wnl-men-120115_nsl-promo-5_title&mb=K2VcbkxhrhREAZ5zC2UpheHnVev1imbCHYS8QQY8uqo%3d

[ii] White, E.G. Review & Herald, December 17, 1914 par. 17

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Do not cast me off in the time of old age; Do not forsake me when my strength fails. Psalm 71:9 (NKJV)


You can help support your loved one with Alzheimer’s by learning more about how the condition progresses.  WebMD[i] provides a list of the seven stages Alzheimer’s patients go through.

Stage 5: Moderately Severe Decline. At this point your loved one might start to lose track of where he/she is and even what time it is. He/she might have trouble remembering his/her address, phone number, or where he/she went to school. He/she could get confused about what kind of clothes to wear for the day or season.

You can help by laying out her/his clothing in the morning; this helps them keep a sense of independence.  When they repeat the same question, patiently answer with an even, reassuring voice.  It’s possible that they are asking the question less to get an answer and more to just know you’re there.  Even if your loved one can’t remember facts and details, he/she might still be able to tell a story, so encourage them to use their imagination at those times.

Stage 6: Severe Decline.  Your loved one might recognize faces but forget names.  He may also mistake a person for someone else, like thinking his wife is his mother.  They may also experience some delusion like thinking she needs to go to work even though she no longer has a job.

You might need to help him go to the bathroom.  While it may be hard to talk, you can still connect with them through the senses. Many people with Alzheimer’s love hearing music, being read to, or looking over old photos.

Stage 7: Very Severe Decline.  Most basic abilities such as eating, walking, and sitting up, fade during this period. You can help them by feeding them with soft, easy-to-swallow food, helping them to use a spoon, and making sure they drink adequate amounts of fluids. This last point is important, as many people at this stage can no longer tell when they’re thirsty.


Father God, during this difficult stage in our loved one’s life please help me to be patient and kind with them so that I may care for them until they can rest until Jesus’ return.

[i] http://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/guide/alzheimers-disease-stages

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I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread. Psalm 37:25 (NKJV)


You can help support your loved one with Alzheimer’s by learning more about how the condition unfolds.  WebMD[i] provides a list of the seven stages Alzheimer’s patients go through.

Stage 3: Mild Decline.  It’s at this stage that you may begin to notice changes in your loved one’s thinking and reasoning.  For instance:

  • Forgets something he/she just read
  • Asks the same question over and over
  • Has more and more trouble making plans or organizing
  • Can’t remember names when meeting new people

One way you can help him/her is by being their “memory” for him/her, making sure he/she pays bills and gets to appointments on time. You may carefully and lovingly suggest he/she ease his/her stress by retiring from work and putting his/her legal and financial affairs in order.

Stage 4: Moderate Decline.   Those challenges with their thinking and reasoning that you noticed in the previous stage become more obvious while new issues appear. Your loved one might:

  • Forget details about him/herself
  • Have trouble putting the right date and amount on a check
  • Forget what month or season it is
  • Have trouble cooking meals or even ordering from a menu

At this stage you can help with everyday chores and his/her safety. Make sure she/he isn’t driving anymore, and that someone isn’t trying to take advantage of her/him financially.

These are good words to keep in mind: “Parents are entitled to a degree of love and respect which is due to no other person…The fifth commandment requires children not only to yield respect, submission, and obedience to their parents but also to give them love and tenderness, to lighten their cares, to guard their reputation, and to succor and comfort them in old age.”[ii]


Father God, may I take good care of my parents not just because they took good care of me but because you commanded it.

[i] http://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/guide/alzheimers-disease-stages

[ii] White, E.G., Mind, Character, and Personality, p. 747


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Caring for the terminally ill – 3

By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. Hebrews 11:21 (NKJV)


We finish Paula Spencer Scott’s[i] list of nine facts you need to know to decide if hospice is right for you or a loved one:

Hospice can enrich, and sometimes salvage, the last stage of life. Almost a third of those with a terminal illness die in the hospital, many hooked up to machines that do little to halt the process of dying and which can be very painful or uncomfortable instead.   The purpose of hospice is to provide support for the more personal aspects of this final life stage.  Hospice can help the patient reflect on their legacy and life meaning, focus on relationships in a deeper and more intentional way, achieve a sense of closure, and realize any end-of-life goals, like attending a grandchild’s graduation or getting their financial affairs in order.

Hospice is for the entire family.   It can be challenging to witness the hallucinations of delirium, or to understand the body language of someone who can no longer speak, or to watch loved ones leaving us slowly but surely. A hospice nurse, social worker, or chaplain can help interpret what’s happening, or explain the signs of imminent death, and help the family help the patient.  And when families need a break, the sick person can spend up to five days at a time in inpatient respite care, such as in a nursing home or hospice facility.

Hospice continues after death.   Many people think that once their loved ones dies, the work of hospice comes to an end as well.  They may not realize that optional follow-up grief support for 12 months is included under Medicare rules.  Anne Alesch, a bereavement counselor who runs separate support groups for surviving spouses and adult children explains that “for many of our families, their journey with hospice is only beginning once their loved one dies.”

When a loved one is dying, it is not just a diagnosis but a person we care about deeply.  Ass Ira Byock says, “We make a mistake in assuming that serious illness and dying are mostly medical. They’re fundamentally personal.”


Father God, if the time comes, may I know when to reach out for help.

[i] AARP Bulletin, November 2015, vol.56, No.9 (www.aarp.org/bulletin

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The dying groan in the city, And the souls of the wounded cry out; Yet God does not charge them with wrong. Job 24:12 (NKJV)


In an AARP (American Association of Retired People) bulletin, Paula Spencer Scott[i] shares nine facts you need to know to decide if hospice is right for you or a loved one:

If you start hospice and realize it’s not for you, you can stop.  You need to have an ongoing conversation with your health care team in order to decide the best treatment approach you want for your loved one according to their current needs.  The conversation is “ongoing” because goals and needs evolve.

You may live longer during the time you have left.  According to research, patients in hospice care on average live longer than those receiving standard care.  For instance, a 2010 study of lung cancer patients showed that they lived nearly three months longer.  Another study, which looked at the most common terminal diagnoses, found the same, ranging from an average of 20 more days for gallbladder cancer to 69 days for breast cancer.

You can still see your regular doctor.  The basic hospice team consists of a physician and nurse who are on call 24 hours a day, a social worker, a counselor or a chaplain, and a volunteer. Many hospices offer added services such as psychologists, psychiatrists, home health aides, art or pet therapists, nutritionists, and occupational, speech, massage or physical therapists.  But the hospice team does not replace your regular doctor and you are always in charge of your medical decisions.

The goal of pain management in hospice is to enable you to live well, not sedate you.  Pain medicine is not simply intended to make the person sleepy to the point where they can’t interact.  Instead, if you live with pain that is not managed properly, it makes you more tired and irritable, and robs you of quality of life. If drugs like morphine are used, they are intended to treat anxiety and to lessen pain, which has been shown to be undertreated at the end of life, not hasten death or to rob you of interaction with your loved ones, as some people believe.


Father, help me to make all these important decisions carefully and to aim for quality of life for my loved ones.

[i] AARP Bulletin, November 2015, vol.56, No.9 (www.aarp.org/bulletin

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Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am dying, but God will be with you and bring you back to the land of your fathers. Genesis 48:21 (NKJV)


Many people still don’t know what hospice is or does.  The place to begin is to understand that hospice is a philosophy of care, not a building.  While most people say they want to die at home, only about 1 in 4 end up doing so.  One of the biggest reasons is because without hospice care it is very challenging trying to care for someone with a serious illness.  Ira Byock, the executive director of the Providence Institute for Human Caring compares it to trying to have surgery without anesthesia.

Hospices bring to your home everything you might need such as a hospital bed, bedside commode, medications, bandages, expert consults, all tailored to your needs.  But if home care is daunting, or you just don’t want your loved one to die in your home, hospice care is also available in facilities and hospitals.  Paula Spencer Scott[i] shares nine facts you need to know to decide if hospice is right for you or a loved one:

Signing up doesn’t mean giving up all medical care.  When you accept hospice care, you are making a shift from one set of goals (how to get longer life through a cure) to another (how to get the best quality of life out of whatever time is left).  Even when a cure is no possible, there are therapies that improve symptoms and raise comfort can continue.  On the other hand, if you feel that you have not exhausted all of your treatment options in search of a cure, hospice may not be for you.  Medicare hospice rules require forgoing curative treatments.

You have to qualify for hospice, but you can opt out at any

 time.  In order to qualify for hospice benefits, either through Medicare or private insurance, two physicians must certify that you have a terminal condition with an expected prognosis of six months or less.  At the end of the six months, patients are evaluated and can remain under hospice care for another six-month period. (more tomorrow)


Father God, taking care of a loved one who is dying is a great responsibility but also a wonderful opportunity to show them love in very tangible ways.  If that time comes, help me to do it lovingly.

[i] AARP Bulletin, November 2015, vol.56, No.9 (www.aarp.org/bulletin

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You shall not commit adultery. Deuteronomy 5:18 (NKJV)

We continue with the ten questions that German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm might suggest dating couples would do well to consider before getting married. [i]

  1. What is your stance on infidelity? Consider how you would manage this. Better yet, help strengthen your relationship so infidelity will never happen. One way to strengthen your relationship is by teaming together in the household duties.  “A good wife, who is supposed to be a friend, assistant, mother, family head and housekeeper, and may indeed have to run her own business or job quite apart from her husband – such a wife cannot at the same time be a concubine: it would be too much to demand of her.”  Human, All Too Human

Ellen White wrote to a woman whose husband had committed adultery: “My sister, you cannot please God by maintaining your present attitude. Forgive your husband. He is your husband, and you will be blessed in striving to be a dutiful, affectionate wife. Let the law of kindness be on your lips. You can and must change your attitude.

You must both study how you can assimilate, instead of differing, with one another. . . . The use of mild, gentle methods will make a surprising difference in your lives.”[ii]

Perhaps it is good to remember that while the Bible says adultery is a something God accepts as a reason for someone to seek divorce, it does not mean that they must seek a divorce.  God leaves room for forgiveness and reconciliation.

  1. Are you really willing to stay together until death do you part? Commit to keeping your vows for a lifetime. “We love each other; let us see to it that we keep loving each other! Or did we promise by mistake?”  Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Ellen White compares marriage to a school: “To gain a proper understanding of the marriage relation is the work of a lifetime. Those who marry enter a school from which they are never in this life to be graduated.”[iii]  Marriage cannot simply be a temporary decision but a lifetime commitment.

Father God, seal and strengthen our commitment to each other.

[i] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/skye-cleary/10-essential-questions-to_b_7699300.html

[ii] Ibid., p.345

[iii] Ibid., p. 105

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“Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends, For the hand of God has struck me! Job 19:21 (NKJV)

Deb Kulkkula and Gordon Livingston tell us two more things we should say to a parent grieving the loss of their child:

  1. “I gave to his memorial fund.” Many bereaved parents fear that their children will be forgotten. The friend of a bereaved parent set up a memorial fund for their son and each year on the anniversary of the boy’s death they make a contribution.  For his parents, the sense of continuing and remembrance goes a long way.  Another parent was comforted when she was told her church started a scholarship fund in memory of her late son.
  2. “I mowed the lawn.” People often voice the open-ended offer, “if there’s anything I can do.” which will probably not work because the bereaved person won’t want to ask for help or might not even know what they need. It’s better to make a more specific offer such as “I’m bringing you a meal tonight, I’ll be there at 6 o’clock,” or “I’ll take care of the lawn tomorrow.”

At the same time, there is one phrase we should never say to a person grieving the loss of a loved one:  “I know how you feel.”  As Livingston explains, saying those words “betrays such a lack of understanding of what the bereaved parent is going through.  People mean well by sharing their own periods of grief, like the death of their grandmother or a beloved family pet, as a way to sympathize.  However, those are not equivalent losses and the words more often than not are simply ignored or may even anger the bereaved parent.  As Livingston says, “To try to explain to people that this is the kind of loss that transforms you into a different person, that you will never be the same person you were before this happened, is almost impossible.”

Maybe the words of someone acquainted with death and grief may teach us what this sad experience can do to us: “We will let this bereavement make us more kind and gentle, more forbearing, patient, and thoughtful toward the living.”[i]

Father God, help my presence and words bring comfort to those who grieve the loss of their loved ones.  Use me as your instrument to help and heal their broken hearts.

[i] White, E.G.  Life Sketches, p.253.

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