Memory Lane: The Critical Stages of the Dying’s Life Review

Photo of woman supporting dying mother

It’s never easy to come to terms with one’s impending death. It raises a lot of existential questions. It triggers unpleasant feelings. To help deal with these issues, medical practitioners use a therapy called life review. It’s the process of encouraging the patient to look back on their life, with the aim to find a sense of closure and accomplishment. Although each life review is unique, it basically goes through these distinct stages:


As mentioned, acceptance of the reality of death doesn’t come easy. The dying person will feel all sorts of emotions during this time. One of which, perhaps the strongest and the most felt, is anger. Your loved one may feel angry toward a higher being for letting this tragedy happen to them. In some instances, the resentment may be toward themselves: for not making enough time for their kids or for harboring ill sentiments against their spouse. It’s important that your loved one is free to express these emotions, however unpleasant they are. They shouldn’t be ashamed to feel this way, nor be invalidated. Give your loved one the space to release all these emotions. Reassure them that they’re in a safe space.


Through questions, therapists would draw out from the patient the most significant events in their lives, the good and the bad. As they do this, the goal is to bring them to a sense of responsibility. The goal is to make them realize that they have been proactive in their thoughts and actions in the past. They’re not a victim of their disease, but greater than it. They have been, as the poem says, the captain of their soul. This feeling is liberating for many. This is where patients start to accept the reality that is before them.

This phase is also empowering, in the way that however tragic death may be, patients can have this feeling of being in control still of the situation. Take advantage of the therapy programs and hospice care services in Indiana. Let your loved one experience empowerment even in the midst of illness and death.


silhouette of a free man breaking the chains

This gives a sense of freedom to the patient. It releases them from bitterness, guilt, blame, and shame. But it’s one of those things that’s very hard to achieve. They may find it easy to forgive others for the wrongs done to them, but they will always struggle to forgive themselves. This is why therapists in hospices encourage patients’ relatives to make amends and give each other peace in the last days of their loved ones. The simple phrase, “I forgive you,” can mean so much to a patient. Of course, there are also cases when some relatives choose to be alienated from their dying loved one even until the last days and the patients choose to take unforgiveness to their grave. But opening up the sensitive matter of forgiveness is critical in evaluating one’s life.

Death is painful. It’s never easy to accept such a reality. But if you want to help your loved one have a sense of closure, consider walking them through their life. Hold their hand as they express different emotions. Support them as they take responsibility for the life decisions they have made. Be patient in asking for forgiveness and forgiving them yourself.