The Defy Aging Newsletter

Anti-aging psychology, holistic health, and wellness

a biweekly e-mail newsletter for helping you think, feel, look, and be more youthful and live with purpose.

June 5, 2007 Number 166

This issue:

Coping with Dying

Action to take

Know what is helpful to talk about when someone is struggling with dying.


The ideal is to be like to Energizer Bunny on Alkaline batteries. He just keeps going and going and going at full power and then dies suddenly.

For many people, however, dying is a long drawn out process. Cancer and many other chronic illnesses can raise a lot of why questions and foster depression.

One of the key coping skills for living a long, healthy, happy life is coping with loved ones dying. What can you say to comfort someone who is having a tough time dying?

We all want to think that our lives mattered and we played our hands well. Presidents worry about the legacy they will leave. For people who believe there is place in heaven waiting for them, the task usually is easy. For other people, emphasizing three points usually helps:

  1. You helped a lot of people and touched a lot of lives. Give specific examples. Rearing children is an obvious example, but so is mentoring, great friendships, volunteer work, donating blood, etc. When people are dying, they usually focus on family and relationships as opposed to work. Consequently, contributions to the profession usually don’t resonate except for professors, politicians, and founders.
  2. You did honest, needed work. It helped a lot of people and made the world a better place. While there are crooks and shysters, most people’s work made the world a better place and they should take credit for it.
  3. You went many places, did many things, and met fascinating people. You heard a lot of music, saw a lot of beauty, and enjoyed life. In short you lived a full life. (Note: How you word things can make a big difference. If you talk about living fully, an unhelpful "yes-but" inner voice often objects with things they didn't get to do.)

If one of the points doesn’t fit, emphasize the other two.


What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.

~Albert Pine (a 19th-century English author)

To be what is called happy, one should have

(1) something to live on,

(2) something to live for,

(3) something to die for.

The lack of one of these results in drama.

The lack of two results in tragedy.

~ Cyprian Norwid (a 19th-century Polish poet)


On the plus side, death is one of the few things that can be done lying down.

~Woody Allen

For three days after death, hair and fingernails continue to grow, but phone calls taper off.

~Johnny Carson

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