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What Does It Feel Like to Die?*

Scientific and Practical Guide to Death and Dying

As an RN who has seen death firsthand, I was curious about what this book had to offer. The author is a hospice volunteer, so she does have some viable personal insights into death and dying, and she has gone further and talked with medical professionals, some of whom specialize in palliative care, and studied current research into death and dying. She also shares some of her personal experience in dealing with her own mother’s death. If one is up for reading the science, I believe that this book would be helpful for those who are newly diagnosed with a terminal illness and for family members touched by such. The book not only looks at the physical aspect dying process itself (insofar as we can know it) but also at coping with it and getting your affairs in order. You’ll learn a little about the hospice system, which is not as well understood as it could be.

I feel like the book should have actually been several books: one just for the person who is dying, one for family members, one for caregivers, and one that speaks directly to the science of it all. At times, this book does feel like it is trying to be too much to too many types of people, so a specialized set of books would be more helpful. For instance, I believe that a simplified, well-organized version would be fantastic for the person who is actually dying, stressing the situations so they will run across in the physical aspect as well as the mental and financial preparation.

I find myself wondering at the statistic that she gave in the beginning, that 90% of us will die after living with a disease for days, weeks, or years. I don’t quite buy that, or at least, wouldn’t put it that way. Life is terminal; we will all die. Chronic diseases give one a higher chance for mortality but don’t necessarily cause death directly. After all, say, a person with high blood pressure doesn’t necessarily die from it even if they’ve lived with it for years. Sometimes death is sudden, like in a car crash. However, often it is more of an aggregate of certain factors: age, general health, and chronic diseases (co-morbidities) than a specific terminal illness.

All in all, though, I do you think this is a very helpful book for those involved in the dying process. you may want to cherry-pick your way through, picking the nuggets that apply to you and your situation.