"I feel ashamed... I wanted her to die"

I feel ashamed.jpg

End of life decisions and experiences are profound, complicated, varying, impacting, frightening, paralysing, peaceful, beautiful... the list goes on.

One of life’s great pains is to witness someone we love deteriorating, many times painfully as the day of death is delayed often by medical interference or simply the body willing to holding on just a little longer. I have lost count how many times someone has said “Steve I am ashamed to say it, but I just wanted them to die.”

I remember with such clarity a friend of mines 10 year old son died….it was tragic and so painful. I remember many things about this time but most of all I remember his statement… ”I am so glad all those tubes are no long coming out of the poor little guy….I am glad for him it's over.” He then collapsed upon the coffin in complete distress.

The feeling of hopelessness when all we can do is watch a loved one dying is almost too difficult to articulate in words. The fact is, not one of us would ever wish for anyone to have to go through the horrific journey of a ‘horrible slow death’, and neither would we want someone to have to watch a loved one go through it.

The “wanting them to die” statement has nothing to do with wanting the person gone, but everything to do with wanting the suffering to end.”

As a minister for 24 years I have stood at the hospital bed of dying loved ones so many times, and seen and felt the excruciating pain they feel as they are traumatized by what they see.  Without doubt the most common request I hear is for the suffering to end. To carry shame or guilt as a result of these feelings is unhealthy and in my opinion completely unnecessary. Love always wants the best.



James L. Werth Jr. defines end-of-life decision making as: “choices by dying individuals, their loved ones, or professional care givers that take place during a person’s dying process and/or have an effect on the manner and timing of death.”[1]

There is a plethora of literature written about this area which covers so many different aspects of end of life decisions. It is far to large for me to cover or do justice to in a short blog. However I would like to offer 3 considerations:

  1. Make communication between family and the medical professionals priority.
  2. Emotions are at their highest, conflict and misunderstanding is common, be patient and kind.
  3. There are many support agencies, chaplains, social workers, end of life educators, printed literature and so much more….make the most of all of it.

Loving unconditionally, even to death is nothing to be ashamed of. I conclude with an earlier statement:  “wanting them to die” has nothing to do with wanting the person gone, but everything to do with wanting the suffering to stop.”

Please, be kind to yourself.


By Steve Morrison


[1]Meagher, D. K., & David E Balk. (2013). Handbook of Thanatology: The Essential Body of Knowledge for the Study of Death, Dying, and Bereavement (2 edition). Routledge. Page 73.