Building community in a changing world

February 5, 2022

The Six Responses to Dying

Following up on my reading of Roshi Joan Halifax’s “Being with Dying,” I learned the importance of not judging which of these six responses a person happens to have. That we all have a different death journey, just like we all have a different life journey. And that it’s possible to find liberation in even the most challenging of circumstances.

Here are the six typical responses to dying:

1. Fear – Fear can help us see what is truly important – it can help us to prioritize. Its natural to feel afraid of dying, whether it be pain, the loss of all that is precious to us. Accepting death as a natural part of life is hard to do and can be a terrible obstacle to dying well.

2. Denial – Denial can have a wisdom all its own. It can help bring peace.

3 Grieving – Worried about the loss of a life not fully lived. It can provide value to help bring someone to a deeper level of compassion.

4. Defying – Doing everything possible to prolong life. Even though death is inevitable, most people will do whatever they can to prolong it.

5. Acceptance – To be accepting, it takes great presence of mind and a radical ability to embrace what every moment brings. Coming to terms with the truth of impermanence. The natural order. Some people get angry if they’re resuscitated and not being allowed to accept death on its own terms.

6. Liberating – Perhaps the most fortunate and rarest response – embracing a powerful opportunity for enlightenment. Free from fear. Each moment is new and complete.