19 False Myths About Dying People Need to Stop Believing

If there’s one universal truth that unites us all, it’s that no one’s getting out of here alive! Death is the natural, inevitable end to our lives, but it’s often treated with secrecy and euphemism, which can cause misunderstandings and lead to heightened fear or anxiety. Here are 19 common myths about dying that we need to shed some light on for a healthier perspective on death. 

It Always Hurts

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For most of us, our only experience of death comes from the movies, where screams and wails over gruesome injuries are all too common. In real life, old age or disease is the most common cause of death, and pain management is a priority in palliative care. Even patients with painful terminal illnesses, like cancer, can often be kept relatively comfortable in their final days.

Talking About Death is Taboo

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There’s a reason for euphemisms like ‘passing away’ as society, as a whole, doesn’t approve of discussing death. Busch Funeral Homes writes, “By facing it, we’re forced to accept the reality of the situation – that death is inevitable – so we choose to tiptoe around the topic until it’s too late.” This hesitation limits the opportunity for healthy, open discussion on the topic.

Dying People are Weak

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Yes, people in the latter stages of illness are often physically weak—but that doesn’t mean their minds aren’t as strong and resilient as ever. Some people with terminal diseases remain strong and active for much of the time, while others become increasingly frail towards the end. Even those who are physically weak may retain their emotional strength and willful character.

Only Close Family Matters

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Someone who is dying isn’t dead yet and, so long as their mind is still unaffected, they should be given full control over who they see and spend time with. The person may want to see friends, spiritual leaders, lawyers or close confidantes. Don’t make assumptions; let them decide who they want to spend time with, especially seeing as they don’t have much of it left.

The Dying Aren’t Interested in Anything

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Being elderly, frail or sick doesn’t mean you stop being the person you are inside. Many terminally ill patients choose to engage in hobbies and engage in activities that spark their interest. They may not be physically able to perform feats of strength or endurance, but they can still do things like enjoy art/music/theater, have pets, read or write novels, knit, cook or craft.

Grief Has Five Stages

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A study in The NIH says the typical “Kübler-Ross model” of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) is often used, but this doesn’t apply to everyone who’s suffered a loss. People experience grief in their own way, at their own pace. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve– allow yourself to feel emotions without trying to ‘fit’ into any pre-prescribed sequence.

Tears are Pointless

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Crying is a perfectly normal human reaction to intense sadness or frustration and is entirely natural when dealing with a terminal illness and the death of a loved one. Feel free to express your emotions openly, and never feel ashamed if you need to sob. You may not have many chances left to show the dying person how much you care, so don’t bottle up your sadness.

Positive Vibes Only

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Losing someone you love is horribly tough, and pretending like it isn’t won’t help you or them. Be honest about your feelings, accept that there will be dark days, and allow yourself to acknowledge negative feelings like anger, sadness, and frustration. The dying person may need to express these emotions, too, and you should be there to listen without judgment.

False Hope is Necessary

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If someone has been diagnosed as terminal or is exceptionally old, hope for recovery may be beyond optimistic. While hoping for more time or less pain is natural, it’s important to be honest about the situation and the inevitability of death. False hope may lead you to delay vital conversations or put off making important decisions. Be compassionate without sugar-coating the reality.

Euthanasia is the Answer

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In Europe, Euronews reports that assisted dying is only legal in 5 countries as a way to reduce unnecessary suffering and improve dignity while dying. However, many people have peaceful, respectable deaths with proper pain management and emotional support. Euthanasia or assisted suicide is a complex issue and not the ubiquitous answer to every terminal diagnosis.

Hospice Care is a Necessity

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End-of-life care (often called palliative care) can occur in a designated facility called a hospice, which provides 24/7 medical care, pain management, and support during a person’s final months. While this approach may be the right choice for your loved one, many dying people choose to remain in their own homes or are cared for by family during the last part of their lives.

Discussing Funerals is Morbid

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If you don’t ask, you don’t get it. And that’s all the more true when someone is dying and won’t be able to answer after they die. Talking to them about their funeral wishes can be a form of closure and a way to ensure their wishes are respected—making funeral arrangements more personal and meaningful for those left behind. This can also make funeral planning less stressful, too.

Spirituality Requires Belief

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Spirituality is about finding meaning and purpose in life and doesn’t require religion or religious texts. Many people find comfort in spiritual practices like mindfulness, meditation, or prayer during their final days, but a non-religious person is unlikely to suddenly become devout. Allow them to explore different practices and see what brings them peace without judgment or scorn.

Children Can’t Cope

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Children are more perceptive and emotionally resilient than we give them credit for. While you may withhold some of the more unpleasant or painful details, it’s essential to be honest about death and how it will affect everyone, including them. Answer their questions in a way that is age-appropriate; use simple language, avoid euphemisms, and let them know it’s okay to feel sad or scared.

You Must Remain Silent

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You shouldn’t avoid talking about the deceased after their death. In fact, Psychology Today claims that you should speak of them as honestly as possible, including their negative traits and past mistakes. Being honest about a person is crucial, even after they die, and talking about them will help keep their memory alive and be a comfort as you grieve.

Grief Has a Deadline

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There’s no set time frame for grief, and some people will leave a permanent hole in your life after they die. This is unavoidable, and it will take time to adjust to their absence, although you may never stop grieving fully. If grief feels overwhelming or you’re struggling to cope, get professional support. A grief counselor or therapist can provide guidance and help you navigate your loss.

Moving On Means Forgetting

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If your loved one cared about you, they wouldn’t want you to be sad forever and they certainly wouldn’t expect you to put your life on hold because of them. When it comes to selling their home or belongings, spending time with others or starting to enjoy life again, never feel guilty. 

Grief is not about forgetting the person who died; it’s about learning to live with your loss.

Death is Isolating

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You may not be able to go with them after they die, but a dying person doesn’t have to face death alone. Assure them that you’re there for them and encourage them to stay connected with loved ones. After they pass, remember that loss can bring people together (like an Irish wake!), and it can even change your perspective enough to rekindle relationships or fix broken bonds.

Dying is Clinical

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While medical care is essential, especially for pain management and symptom control, the dying experience is about more than just doctors and hospitals. Focus on creating a peaceful and loving environment, whether that be in a hospital room or their own home. Play their favorite music, surround them with cherished photos, or read to them, as well as providing medical care.

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