BEING WITH DYING is specifically aimed at professional caregivers, but non-professional caregivers, such as family members and friends who provide caregiving for a dying person, will find excellent support to guide them along their spiritual path.
With unflinching honesty and deep compassion for the dying person, Halifax explores all the aspects of dying and death that, in being with a dying person, a caregiver may experience. She deals with the spiritual, physical, mental and emotional processes that dying activates and how this affects both the dying person and those around him.
There was some bias against family members and friends acting as caregivers to the dying. All her empathy lies with the dying person, which is as it should be, but Halifax is, at times, quite unsympathetic to the emotional pain, suffering and struggle from the family caregivers’ side. Her negative view of caretaker archetypes reveals a subtle disdain for the role of family caregivers.
Unfortunately, this slightly detracts from the inherent wisdom of her advice and Buddhist philosophy. Not all of us have the temperament or self-mastery to become a detached caregiver. All non-professional caregivers do is try to give their loved ones the best that they can out of love. Yes, with hindsight, the mistakes they make may have made dying more difficult for the departing soul, but the resulting guilt also makes the loss harder to bear even when the non-professional caregiver knows the loved one’s soul is finally at peace. Halifax’s compassion was all for the dying and there was very little left over for the family members living for years in that strange limbo between deep love, anticipatory grief, impending loss and physical exhaustion.
Despite this, the wise reflections, the meditations and the practical advice presented in BEING WITH DYING helped me through the very trying time of my beloved Father’s active dying. Coincidentally, I started reading this book the night he had his third and final stroke, and I finished it 11 days later, the day after his funeral.
I regret that I only found this book three years after my role as caregiver to my Father began, because I can see the mistakes I made, despite having help from a professional caregiver for the last 18 months. But I do gain some small comfort from the fact that, in the 6 days it took my beloved Father to actively die, I feel this book truly helped me ease his path slightly (by just sitting quietly with him and following his lead.) I also found the breathing meditations helped me calm my mind and relax my body during this intensely emotional time.
Ultimately, BEING WITH DYING was a worthwhile and comforting read for me.
I highly recommend BEING WITH DYING, no matter what stage of the caregiver’s role you are currently in.