In this brilliantly conceived and beautifully written book, Kathleen Dowling Singh illuminates the profound psychological and spiritual transformations experiences by the dying as the natural process of death reconnects them with the source of their being. Examining the end of life in the light of current psychological understanding, religious wisdom, and compassionate medical science, The Grace of Dying offers a fresh, deeply comforting message of hope and courage as we contemplate the meaning of our mortality.
While the prevailing Western medical tradition has seen death as an enemy to be fought and overcome, Singh offers a richer and more rewarding path of understanding. Combining extensive training and education in developmental psychology with profound spiritual insight, she balances expert analysis with moving accounts drawn from her experiences working with hundreds of dying patients at a large hospice.
Singh moves beyond the five stages of dying revealed in Kübler-Ross's classic On Death and Dying, and finds in the "nearing death experience" even more significant and forming stages of surrender and transcendence. These stages involve the qualities of grace: letting go, radiance, focusing inward, silence, a sense of the sacred, wisdom, intensity, and, in the end, a merging with Spirit. Through this intense process, we come to experience at last the reality of our true self, which transcends our finite ego and bodily existence, and our merging with the source of being from which we originated. Dying is safe.
In clear, nontechnical language, Singh reveals the transformations that come with dying, using the vocabulary of growing Western, as well as Eastern, wisdom.
Written for those aware that their life is coming to an end, those who care for the dying, and, ultimately, for all of us who inevitably face our owndeath and the deaths of the people we love, The Grace in Dying reveals that dying is the most transforming, powerful, and spiritually rich of life's experiences.
Singh, a hospice worker with training in psychology and an avid interest in religion, here combines a Kubler-Ross-like approach to death and dying with an Eastern religious take on finitude. She questions our sense of death as an "outrage" and her book is filled with the cornerstones of Buddhism and Tibetan religion, ideas that provide no easy comfort ("Our fear of death is grounded in a strong sense of the `I'"). Some of Singh's consolations are not as strong-minded as this analysis of the ego, however. Occasionally, she uses insights that are hardly transcendent ("As we enter the Nearing Death Experience, both emotion and cognition clear.... Beatitudes flow naturally from our being, now a vehicle for of Spirit"). She is at her most perceptive when she seeks to explain why death is so frightening to us: "We are able to maintain the illusion of a separate self... able to maintain it until we enter death row. The moment we receive a terminal prognosis is the moment that fiction begins to transform into documentary." Singh works with terminal patients and can give careful accounts of dying bodies and minds, yet she also notes that the living in fact have no idea what death is like. Nonetheless, her book serves a wise and moving expression of the living helping the dying and should give solace to those facing death as well as to their friends and family.