Accepting and Even Affecting Your Own Death

Edwin Schneidman, honored professor of death (of all types), takes us through his deep thoughts and (really) preparations for death in his final book, A Commonsense Book of Death: Reflections at Ninety of a Lifelong Thanagologist.

He is one who understands, after years working with this subject, that death can be subintentional. That one can control her/his death.

After reading this, I became very curious about the circumstances of Dr. Schneidman’s death. Did he have the “good death” he was looking for? I imagine he did. But according to this slideshow (narrated by him) and the final epilogue written by his therapist, there were times when he emerged, alive, at the emergency room, and sobbed. He was trying to “will” death (“a good death”) much earlier than it happened.

Waiting for the End, Alone and Unafraid

Relief finally occurred, it seems, a year after finishing his final book.

IMPORTANT NOTE: While he doesn’t attend to the ways in which he received support and care in his final years of life in his writing, we can gather from his therapist’s epilogue that Dr. Schneidman was surrounded by a “coterie of female helpers who have helped him to live at home,” (including 24/7 caregivers, a secretary and a therapist, as well as a wonderful woman agent of many years). Thus, while he may be “alone and unafraid” psychologically, he is surrounded by a supportive staff.

This social support seems key for a “good death,” and it seems that Dr. Schneidman made this happen, through hiring and arranging that these individuals come to his home and offer him comfort. And yet, in his ten “Criteria for a Good Death” that he set forth in an article with that title published in June, 2007 in Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, being surrounded by/prepared for death with the help of empathetic listeners, caring and generous souls does not figure into the list.

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Meika Loe

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