Facing Death, Embracing Life: Understanding What Dying People Want


330 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 0-385-66066-9
DDC 155.9'37






Reviewed by Beryl Hamilton

Beryl Hamilton is a freelance writer in Thunder Bay who specializes in
home gardening.


Kuhn, a specialist in palliative care, offers here a follow-up book to
his Understanding What Dying People Want. This guide for terminally ill
patients and their loved ones can, however, be read on its own without
any knowledge of the earlier work. As Kuhn puts it, “This book could
be used as a journal, as a record, a workbook, a companion to the
original book, and/or as a guide to usher you through this time in your
life. I have extracted some of the stories, information and exercises
from the first book and put them into a manual format to enhance the
practicality of this book.”

Individual chapters cover such topics as doctor/patient and
family/patient communication, the management of physical pain, the
creation of a narrative that helps satisfy one’s need to understand a
life, and more broadly, various psychological and spiritual strategies
for reconciling oneself to one’s own and others’ deaths. The book
contains numerous exercises that prompt readers to generate their own
reflections on the end of life. A list of provincial and national
palliative care resources is also included.

Facing Death, Embracing Life is a potentially very useful book for
those seeking practical advice on negotiating terminal illness and its
attendant challenges. The book’s aggressively interactive
approach—one is continually asked to respond to various questions and
therefore create a kind a kind of dialogue with the text—will suit
those who want a detailed, structured plan for thinking through the most
appropriate ways to handle death and to interpret what individual lives
and deaths have meant and might still mean. Some, perhaps, may find the
continual demands to respond to the author’s questions rather
wearying. Kuhn’s emphasis on the value of organizing life events into
a coherent whole, however, seems well placed, while his advice on how to
begin this process is very helpful.


Kuhl, David., “Facing Death, Embracing Life: Understanding What Dying People Want,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/16799.