1. When you were a child, how was the issue of death dealt with in your family?
  2. What do you think causes most deaths?
  3. Do you believe that psychological factors can  predispose someone toward dying?
  4. In your thinking, what role does god play in the areas of illness, suffering and death?
  5. What does death mean to you? (Use words or phrases to express what you feel.)
  6. What aspect of your own death is most distasteful or frightening to you?
  7. If you could choose, when, where and how would you die? Who would be with you?
  8. Does the possibility of massive human destruction by nuclear war influence your present attitudes toward death? How?
  9. When do most people face the reality of death?
  10. Do you believe in a life after death? Why?



  1. Explain in a few brief sentences who God is for you.
  2. Of what does your belief system consist?
  3. What form does your prayer usually take?
  4. When you question the meaning of life for yourself, what convictions strike you most clearly or deeply?
  5. When you try to fathom the “why” of illness and suffering, what thoughts or feelings are conjured up within you?
  6. If you have spent some time considering your own death, what strong thoughts or feelings about it do you have? If you have not, where would a consideration of your own dying take you?

* from Jacik, Miriam. “Spiritual Care of the Dying Adult.” In Carson, Verna Benner. Spiritual Dimensions of Nursing Practice (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders 1989) p259, 277.

For a pdf of this page, click here: QUESTIONS – A LOOK AT DEATH AND DYING


Understanding our own mortality

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (1975) states that “We cannot give loving and caring support to dying persons and their loved ones until we have faced our own death and mortality within the depths of our being.” (Miriam Jacik 1989, 257) See “A look at death and dying” questionnaire.

Addressing our personal beliefs and experiences of loss and death.

  • What losses have you experienced in your life? (a pet, a friend moving away, loss of extended family, loss of family of origin member, loss of present family, loss of significant job, loss of home, divorce, loss of physical functioning, etc.)

What were you taught about death as a child? Was death something to be feared? Was it a secret not to be spoken of? How were the dead spoken of? Was fear connected with death?

“A person’s faith and religious belief system are often a strong source of support during illness and in the face of death. It behooves the [medical professional] to honor this reality not only in his or her own personal life but also in the patient’s life. One does not have to share the same religious affiliation to be able to understand and accept another’s spiritual orientation.” (Jacik 262)

  • How then, are we to have this conversation? Recognizing that we have already been called to consider our own thoughts and feelings regarding death, our own and more generally, how do we engage with others?

“It is important to believe that one person can help another die well, much as one would have helped another to live well….human life is temporary… human beings are mortal… the journey through life is transient.” (Jacik 263)

A statement that describes what motivates the ministry that I do.

“Healthcare professionals, being part of a society that fears, avoids, and denies death, share the same fears and attitudes about death as those they are called to serve. Overcoming such negative attitudes about death requires a personal struggle with the issues of our own mortality, reflection on our personal fears of dying, and being in touch with or formulating our personal philosophy of life. The latter entails the topics of introspection that all people face: the meaning and purpose of life, the meaning of suffering and death, personal beliefs about God or some higher being, the place of God in one’s life, the hereafter, the forms of religious expression one uses, and one’s religious belief system.” (Jacik 257)

Jacik, Miriam. “Spiritual Care of the Dying Adult.” In Carson, Verna Benner. Spiritual Dimensions of Nursing Practice (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders 1989)

Consider also the work of

Dr. Ira Byock, MD, Chair, Palliative Medicine, Dartmouth Medical School  –