Skip to main content


The end of life often can compel your loved one and family to look inward and search for answers about spiritual matters such as the meaning of life, death and being. Author and gerontology professor Kenneth J. Doka, Ph.D. has suggested that this quest can take the form of searching for the meaning of one's life and learning how to define dying appropriately for oneself. Meaning in life is defined individually and will somehow encompass affirming the value of your life. Failure to do this will create despair and a feeling of having wasted your life.

You can help your loved one find the meaning in his or her life. Ask the patient to talk about his or her life. Share old photos and create family trees and genograms. Share family stories. Talk about all of those whose lives he or she has affected. If your loved one wishes to talk about his or her own death, allow your loved one to do so and listen even though it may be difficult or painful. Talking about death may be helping your loved one cope. 

Individuals who seek to "die appropriately" are trying to interpret and understand the experience of their own death. Hope beyond the grave can take many forms. These include a belief in:

  • Immortality through an afterlife
  • Immortality through one's remains returning to the chain of life
  • Immortality through one's progeny
  • Immortality through one's creations
  • Immortality within the memory of one's community
  • Immortality through the donation of organs and body parts

In whatever way your loved one chooses for his or her spirituality to manifest, it will undoubtedly reflect the person’s individuality and uniqueness.

Related Links