This Dying Matters Week we are releasing a series of blogs, sharing reflections on the experiences of some members of staff and patients at Royal Trinity Hospice and the insights they have gained about what is most important in life through their encounters with dying. 

So, what does dying teach us about…. 

Personal philosophy and what’s most important 

One inescapable and challenging part of life is death, but it can also serve as a reminder that life is finite and precious. Thinking about the end of our lives can help us to reflect on the life we have led and the actions, ideas and beliefs we value the most. Many of us can think of a time when we have learnt an important lesson about life through a difficult or inspirational experience. We asked staff members and patients at Trinity about what their encounters with dying have taught them about their personal philosophy and what matters most. 

Elena (Hospice patient) 

“Words of wisdom I would share are in tough times to make sure you get answers to your questions. I think most of the time we don’t feel our questions are worth it and can feel scared that by asking questions we are wasting some-one else’s time. It is really important to speak up in the moment.” 

Rohan (Hospice patient) 

“Learning in life is one of the most important things. Without learning the chances of failure are higher. Common sense is in teamwork, I have realised that without a team you don’t achieve anything.” 

Amy (Consultant in Palliative Care) 

“One of the most common responses I receive when I tell people that I work in palliative care is "that must be very sad". Which of course it is at times. Most of the time however, I find my role to be life-affirming and an important reminder of the fragility of life and the precious nature of otherwise seemingly mundane day to day experiences. Above all, working in this role reinforces to me on a daily basis how fortunate I am to have close relationships with my loved ones, and the importance of prioritising those people and connections above all things.” 

Vincent (Healthcare Assistant) 

“This is where it gets really interesting, because there will never be a one-size-fits-all answer to this. However, most of us will inevitably be confronted with the question that has moved humanity since before the beginning of time - where do we go when we have left the physical realm? There may never be a definitive answer to this, and while some may find this disappointing, I believe it is an opportunity to regain control - if no one knows where we will go, then what we think and where we want to be is as real and tangible as anything. Being able to express ourselves and being the individual that we are - no matter our physical or even cognitive and mental capabilities at the time - is important, and no one and nothing can take that away from us, not even death. We all want to be seen and heard and understood. As healthcare professionals, we need to accept that when life comes to an end, the things we think we know lose relevance, and we need to give everyone the opportunity to be the individual they are - even if that entails doing less of what we think is best. To sum it up, all the previously mentioned values are important - experiences, forgiveness, love and connection - but at the centre of it all is our individuality, in which we can find dignity.” 

Abbey (Clinical Nurse Specialist) 

“I have learnt that life is really short, try to not get too wrapped up in work and make space and time for other things. Also, looking after yourself and treating your body with kindness and being kind to other people is important. I think that’s probably one of the most important things to me, to give out kindness. I think if I can do that then I feel at peace. I aim to make people feel comfortable, that’s all I want out of people generally. I am not religious, and actually working in palliative care has made me think about that. Even though I am around people who are dying and death, when I think about my own death it does still make me feel anxious. I think it might be because I don’t believe anything happens after you dying and seeing all these people from different religions and cultures there is actually something really comforting about religion. I have felt a bit envious of that and I find it really interesting to learn about. 

Dying is the one thing in life that we know for certain is going to happen to us! But there is still such a big taboo around it and I just think the more conversations we have about it the more open, and comfortable we feel about it and more open and important conversations can happen about it.” 

Read the rest of our words of wisdom blogs below.

Part 1: Bucket list

Part 2: Forgiveness

Part 3: Love & Connection