There is a lot of fear that accompanies terminal illness and questions come to the surface. “What happens after we die?” I worked for many years as a medical social worker with dying patients. They were usually the first to accept the truth. Often the sick person knows that their end is near. What I observed in many of them was an extreme fear of the actual process of “crossing”. Depending on religious beliefs and personal experience, it means different things to different people. I do know, however, that all of the visualizations I have done with the terminally ill seemed to bring comfort and comfort. Visualizations can be seen as a form of crossing over. When we close our eyes and “travel” somewhere inside, we can imagine that this is what it is after we die. For many, the reality was peaceful and serene. I have generally used a variation of the following visualization. The results were always different with each person. What a person sees is unique to their experience.
After practicing some relaxation techniques, like breathing and muscle tension / release, I would ask the client to imagine that they were traveling upwards and finally reaching a “temple of healing”. It is not a place to heal their disease, it is a place “to heal”. Healing and healing are two very different terms with different purposes. In the Temple of Healing, we walk through a beautiful, serene garden and imagine the sounds and smells of being there. We then enter a temple of healing. It is important not to describe this temple because people will create theirs. There is no speech or exchange during the exercise. After that, I would discuss the details of their experience. When this exercise was done on a weekly basis, I would add more elements to the visualization. If there was a group of “master healers” one week I would bring them back the next week and the patient would quickly revert to the previous scenario. Then I would add a new twist to the story based on what happened to me at the time and what was going on in the person’s life. I have always let myself be led where my intuition takes me at the moment. The client usually tells me afterwards that I was right on point and that the symbols or metaphors had special meaning for them.
What’s the point of doing these weekly exercises with someone who only has a few weeks to live? They will often let go and let go of a particular problem that they hadn’t been able to get rid of before. They will resolve issues that need to be addressed immediately. They will make peace with life events that they are going to miss, like future degrees, weddings, etc.
The “healing temples” in the visualizations and the “healing masters” who come to participate in these guided images, are extremely reassuring at a time when the individual is face to face with the unknown. The process of dying shouldn’t be one of terror and loneliness, but rather a time when families come together and people become attached to the details and release old resentments.