Do spiritual remedies cure fear?
Everyone will die someday, but the feeling of confronting death is beyond the understanding of many.
That is why indescribable emotions such as fear, depression, helplessness and vulnerability are often produced among people with serious illness. The master of thanatology, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross believes that people with serious illness have to go through the five stages of grief model, namely denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, before they can confront death peacefully and reach a state of serenity. It is understandable that, except for fellows travelling on the same path, the emotional fluctuation of people with serious illness could be incomprehensible even to their closest ones. Advices from outsiders and mighty philosophy are all easier said than done. Insomnia and depression even aggravate the patients’ disease and bring them torment. It is said that “the only cure for mental illness is spiritual remedies”, and this is why medical and psychological treatment are gradually gaining acceptance in mainstream medicine in the past decade and they are combined with clinical psychology to provide support for patients confronting death and their families to meet this challenge.
A psychological support group formed by clinical psychologists is established in the Oncology Department in Tuen Mun Hospital, and the patients of the group, Fong-fong, Pui-wen and Yuet-ying, have experienced or are experiencing the intimidation and horror of death. Fong-fong was diagnosed with terminal cancer two years ago, and was considered incurable at first. With her tenacious willpower and her faith, and a strong bond with her family, she has fought all this time. However, with her family in mind, and having considered that her husband and son are carrying too much vulnerability on their shoulders, Fong-fong always dissimulates and conceals her fears. Pui-wen is also a believer and she is diagnosed with cancer unexpectedly. At first, she believes that death is already a solved puzzle to her and plans to give up her treatment at one point; however, she finally discovers the inexorability of fears before death when her condition exacerbates, and this is when she truly experiences the strong feeling of attachment between her and her husband after decades of marriage. Yuet-ying is the lucky one in the group. She has now basically fully recovered and still actively participates in the volunteer work of the group. After a visit at death’s door, she understands not only the value of life but also the communication with families in a completely different light than what she believed before she fell ill. Dr. Ho, the group facilitator, utilises sessions of individual counselling, group activities, family counselling, etc., with the hope to finding means to vent Fong-fong’s and Pui-wen’s emotions, and to help them hold fast to a proper attitude towards life, thereby facing the unpredictable future in life. Death is inevitable, but could we overcome the fears that come along with it? Is it always true that we only realise what matters most in life when death approaches?