The purpose of death
The nature of life after death
How we can prepare for death
How we can assist the dying
We have evolved a science of birth...but we are sadly in need of a science of death. When a child is coming into the world, we bustle about in intelligent endeavor; yet when a lifelong friend is about to leave us, we stand helplessly about, ignorant of how to aid, or worse, we bungle, and cause suffering instead of helping. Max Heindel, The Light Beyond Death
In addition to the customary care and compassion that we give to the dying, there are steps we can take to help them prepare for the spiritual journey that lies ahead.
Before death and afterward, during the transition period, traditional sacred music or chanting can help attune the mind and the subtle body to higher planes of experience. For example, Gregorian chants may be appropriate for those brought up in the Christian tradition, the Vishnu Sahasranam for the Hindu tradition, or the Qur'an for the Islamic tradition.
The period before death can be difficult as the body is shutting down or being consumed by disease. During this time, it's easy for the mind to become overwhelmed and unable to manage with daily life. This is the time for friends and family to step in and take over the person's day to day responsibilities. In particular, a mother with young children needs to be assured that her children will be protected and cared for. The last thoughts and feelings before death set the tone for everything that follows. Anything we can do to reduce worry and create an uplifting atmosphere will help make for an easier passage.
As the end is drawing near, it would be ideal if the body were positioned to encourage the energies to flow upward and out through the upper channels. If it will not cause undue pain or discomfort, help the person to sit upright, or in a semi-upright position. Alternatively, you may turn them onto their right side. In some cases, a change of position is not practical, or even possible. That's ok. It's only something to bear in mind, if circumstances permit.
After death, our psychic connection with the body is not severed at once, but disintegrates gradually over 24 to 48 hours. During this period, loud noise or jarring motion can be distracting or even painful to the deceased. Also, it's important to remember that the departed one is not dead. The physical body is dead, but the awareness is still alive and sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others. If you think of them as dead, they may sense your thoughts and this can be confusing or painful for them.
Of course, it's natural to grieve after such a loss. But also, it's important to bear in mind that the departed can hear, and often see, everything in the room for some time after passing. If they hear overt grieving, they'll naturally want to console you and let you know that they're alright and not dead. But you won't be able to hear them and this gap in communication can be frustrating for them.
Sometimes, the departed can be disoriented after death. They may feel so alive and fresh that they're unable to grasp what's happened. This is particularly true in cases of sudden death. In some traditions, it's customary to read instructions aloud to the departed, to help orient and guide them through the stages of death. (See next chapter: Instructions for the Departed)
Whether you feel inclined to read aloud or not, feel free to tell them you love them. Or through prayer, ask the Divine to guide their passage. In whatever way you are able, feel your love for them and remember that they are not dead. This will help them in their passage and it will help you to bear the loss of their physical presence.
During times of grief, people often try to contact the deceased through a "spirit medium". There are many genuine and honest spirit mediums in the world. But please be advised; there are also mediums who exploit grief and fear at a time when people are most vulnerable. Or, the medium may contact an astral spirit who pretends to be your loved one, with malicious intent. If you feel that you need the help of a spirit medium, please take your time, get references and choose one carefully.
Also, please consider that you don't need a spirit medium to communicate with your loved ones, who are still very much alive on the inner planes. Keep their picture in a place of honor in your home and feel your love whenever you think of them. Tell them that you love them and miss them. They may not be able to hear your words, but they will feel your love. Our words will not reach the inner planes. But love is like a beam of light that will reach your loved ones where ever they are. They will feel your love and know it is you. And they will return love to you in the same way.