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Inside the hospice: Getting ready for the fourth stage

Some grief therapists say there is a common threefold acceptance of dying. The seeds are sown when we are children and, by the time we reach old age, we usually find that we have grown accustomed to the inevitable. At any rate that is the general idea; however, we fluctuate due to our unique and different lives.

As children, death and dying are usually experienced in stories or dramatised on television or film. It can seem a little unreal, until a beloved pet, grandparent or an elderly neighbour dies. Children should never be side-lined by being judged as to whether they grieve or not. They might play one minute and be sad the next, but they still grieve. It is important to remind them that grieving is very normal and part of being human. They usually find this information quite a relief, as grief can sometimes feel far from what they perceive as normal.

The second ‘age’ of acceptance is midlife. By this time, a parent or a sibling or a work colleague has died and those in their middle years suddenly realise they are next in line. This can be a crisis time, with questions like ‘what have I done with my life’ being asked. This is often the hardest time, and it is important that the search for meaning is not devalued. It is in our middle years that we sometimes begin to understand the precise nuance of what it is to have faith

Generally, by the time we reach old age (which is becoming quite late: 90 is the new 60), we know friends and family who have died, our bodies have endured a few medical interventions, and we have acknowledged our faults and surrendered them into God’s merciful care. Death is more accepted, less resisted and seen as inevitable.

However there is a fourth stage and this is summed up by Pope Francis ‘Death is behind us, not in front of us. In front of us is the God of the living, the definitive defeat of sin and death, the start of a new time of joy and endless light.’ (General Audience 2013) This, by far, sounds like the best stage!

Please pray for the patients, staff and volunteers of St Joseph’s Hospice.

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