End-of-Life Care

In dying, a transformation of perception and consciousness occurs, similar to but different from near-death experiences. Death itself remains a mystery.

The dying experience their own dignity, which may be experienced even in the direst circumstances. Such experiences are important. I speak about three kinds of experiencing dignity (see Dying: a Transition, 2015, chapter 2).

At the deathbed, it is essential to support the relatives of patients who are dying. Family members are often deeply anxious. Based on practical experience and research, my knowledge of dying often helps relatives to understand that dying patients frequently enter a state beyond fear, pain, and suffering.

How can family members reach their dying loved ones? Understanding terminal and symbolic language helps. Due to a transformation of perception, the dying live in another world and language. As end-of-life carers, we can point out the subtle signs that the dying make and help intuit their symbolic expressions. The dying sometimes react to our interpretations and signal affirmation. Such instances offer family members profound happiness. Some relatives also devote themselves compassionately to the dying. Such devotion also touches the dying-long before the hour of death.

Job`s Female Companion

You - are my lover,
I - am your beloved. Am I?
I will not sit here for seven days and nights
in silence beside you.

You - assailed by suffering -
do not want to be Job. Are you?
Day after day you sink into namelessness,
have long given up yourself and God.

Aye, I will lie on the floor next to your bed.
Can I reach you? - The floor is cold.
You just ask, "What are you doing?"
At night, a scream - you have never screamed before.

And I know: If I can "hold" your soul,
then you are held, leaving you be and carrying you.
- Help, I can not do any more than I can!
I can.

Monika Renz, December 2016

(published in Erlösung aus Prägung, 2017; forthcoming in English
as Forgiveness and Reconciliation,


Dying: a Transition (translated by Mark Kyburz with John Peck) (2015). German edition: «Hinübergehen: Was beim Sterben geschieht». Freiburg i.Br.: Herder, 2015 [Paperback]; 2018 [Textbook]. more


Renz, M., Schuett Mao M., Büche, D., Strasser, F., Cerny, T. Dying is a transition (2013). more

Renz, M., Reichmuth, O., Bueche, D., Traichel, B., Schuett Mao, M., Cerny T., Strasser F. Fear, pain, denial and spiritual experiences in dying processes (2018). more

Audio and Video

Rohrbeck, Jens (2018, May 3). What really happens when you die. End-of-life-phenomena. At home with Peter Fenwick. [Thanatos TV]. open weblink

"Is there a right to live and to die?" Open Forum: Live and let die [World Economic Forum Davos
(31. Jan.)] [DVD]. Zürich: tpc TV Productioncenter, 2009. Panelists: Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf (Federal Council of Justice and Police of the Swiss Confederation), Petra de Jong (CEO, NVVE, Right to Die-NL, Netherlands), Prof. Hans Jürgen Münk (Professor of Theological Ethics, University of Lucerne), Dr. phil., Dr. theol. Monika Renz (Psychotherapist, head of psychooncolgy) Cantonal Hospital St. Gallen, Thomas Wipf, President of the Council of the Swiss Protestant Churches.

Cantonal Hospital St. Gallen

More information at www.kssg.ch/onkologie/

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