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Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death Paperback – November 17, 2009


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Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death + Dying Well + Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; 1 Reprint edition (November 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590307186
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590307182
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this moving meditation on palliative care, Halifax tells a story about a dying Zen teacher who confesses to his students: Maybe I will die in fear or pain. Remember there is no right way. This sentiment forms the core of a book that provides practical and philosophical guidance to caregivers. Drawing on her 30 years of experience in the contemplative care of the dying, Halifax honestly enumerates the challenges of being with the dying while exalting it as a school for unlearning the patterns of resistance... [it] enjoins us to be still, let go, listen, and be open to the unknown. According to Halifax, bearing witness to dying can teach innumerable lessons to the living—assuming we give up our tight control strategies, our ideas of what it means to die well. Halifax is a Zen priest, and while many of her teachings derive from Buddhism, her supremely readable book will attract readers of all faiths who will appreciate her clarity and compassion and the poignancy of these stories of ordinary people facing their final hours with quiet courage. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“A moving meditation on palliative care. . . . A supremely readable book that will attract readers of all faiths who will appreciate her clarity and compassion and the poignancy of these stories of ordinary people facing their final hours with quiet courage.”—Publishers Weekly


“This compelling, brave, and wise book draws from a lifetime of remarkable work with people at the end of life.”—Andrew Weil, MD


“Joan Halifax has a knack for straight talk and sublime insight—a no-holds-barred approach to life’s greatest challenge, dying well. This book beckons to those who dare, and those who care; it’s a profound and practical guidebook to the inevitable final dance.”—Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence

“This book is a gift of wisdom and practical guidance for living.”—<st1:place w:st="on"> <st1:city w:st="on">Ira Byock</st1:city>, <st1:state w:st="on">MD</st1:state> </st1:place>, author of Dying Well and The Four Things That Matter Most

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Customer Reviews

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A must have as a reference to help one cope with dying friends.
Lucia Deaville
I am working on an annotated bibliography for the hospice where I volunteer and so far I have read fifteen or sixteen books on care for the dying.
K. Huggs
I only read about 20-30 pages a day to have time to think about and absorb the knowledge in the book.
Niels Larsen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

89 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Niels Larsen on January 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I have scanned the market of books about caretakers and the dying process, and to me this is the finest book available on the subject.

It is cut-to-the-bone view of dying with many personal case stories.

The book is in my view not so well-structured. It is divided in sections, but these overlap, and it seems more like a long association about dying, care-taking and the death process. Sometimes the subject in focus is elaborated and sometimes there is a lot of condensed knowledge in a few sentences.

But it doesn't matter.

You are taken on a journey by this book. It contains so much knowledge (years of experience in the field), so much good advice for living more fully, and so many obvious ways to handle the dying process.

The book describes subjects only rarely found in other similar books - how to take care of the body after death (which can be tremendous healing for grievers I must say from personal experience) and the shadow side of caregiving.

I especially like the description of the dissolution of the elements just before death - indeed what it feels like physically to die - experienced from the inside!

It contains many touching stories, and simple, yet profound sentences of great wisdom - summations of experience from Joan's many hours and years on the bedside of dying fellow human beings.

I only read about 20-30 pages a day to have time to think about and absorb the knowledge in the book.

It is stressed again and again that there are no single good way to die. What the dying person experiences can be so very different from what family, friends, and caretakers experience from the outside.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Lucia Deaville on April 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A friend of mine who is dying of cancer suggested I read this book because it had helped her deal with her prognosis. It helped relieve the rage I felt, especially because I have three other friends with cancer. It gave me a sense of peace and the ability to open myself to their needs and the inevitable. A must have as a reference to help one cope with dying friends.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on October 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Death is as much a part of life as living, but most people do not fear life. "Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death" is Joan Halifax's explanation why one should not fear death. A Buddhist teacher who has worked with the dying for much of her life, she uses the teachings of her religion to help inspire those of any faith to be better be prepared for what is inevitable, and live for the time they have now. "Being With Dying" is informed and inspiring, making it a recommendation for those who want to further appreciate life.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Judy Croome on March 11, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
BEING WITH DYING is specifically aimed at professional caregivers, but non-professional caregivers, such as family members and friends who provide caregiving for a dying person, will find excellent support to guide them along their spiritual path.

With unflinching honesty and deep compassion for the dying person, Halifax explores all the aspects of dying and death that, in being with a dying person, a caregiver may experience. She deals with the spiritual, physical, mental and emotional processes that dying activates and how this affects both the dying person and those around him.

There was some bias against family members and friends acting as caregivers to the dying. All her empathy lies with the dying person, which is as it should be, but Halifax is, at times, quite unsympathetic to the emotional pain, suffering and struggle from the family caregivers' side. Her negative view of caretaker archetypes reveals a subtle disdain for the role of family caregivers.

Unfortunately, this slightly detracts from the inherent wisdom of her advice and Buddhist philosophy. Not all of us have the temperament or self-mastery to become a detached caregiver. All non-professional caregivers do is try to give their loved ones the best that they can out of love. Yes, with hindsight, the mistakes they make may have made dying more difficult for the departing soul, but the resulting guilt also makes the loss harder to bear even when the non-professional caregiver knows the loved one's soul is finally at peace. Halifax's compassion was all for the dying and there was very little left over for the family members living for years in that strange limbo between deep love, anticipatory grief, impending loss and physical exhaustion.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A. wooten on May 21, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am deeply grateful that I stumbled upon this book. This book was an anchor to me when my mom was in hospice in my home for the last two months of her life. As I was caring for my dying mother, I was also caring for my two month old who my mother had helped me give birth to in my home. Each time I began to panic at the fear of impending loss of my mother, my best friend, I would pick up this book and be reminded of the normalcy and inevitability of death, just as normal and inevitable as birth.

Joan Halifax shares many stories of her experience with death and dying, which I found a great comfort, having not yet experienced death or profound loss in my life. She reminds us that no has escaped death, not Jesus, Mohamed or Buddha. Her writing also helped me let go of any idea or story about how my mother's last weeks and ultimate passing would or should look like. It helped me be more present with my mom and meet her and myself in each moment as we were - in all the beauty, light and love as well as the confusion, darkness and sorrow.
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