A hospital chaplain reveals the two things people worry about on their deathbeds

  • Joon Park is a Christian hospital chaplain who counsels people on their deathbeds.

  • He reveals the worries people have just before they die.

  • Patients often have regrets about their pasts, and worries about their loved ones' futures, he said.

A Christian hospital chaplain who regularly counsels patients on their deathbeds shared with Insider the things that people worry about most before they die.

Joon Park has been a hospital chaplain at the Tampa General Hospital in Florida for eight years. He recently described himself to CNN as a "therapriest," because he is present at every death at the hospital and counsels people in their last moments.

He said that due to his job, he has "death anxiety," or a fear of losing his loved ones. However, this has allowed him to be fully present when spending time with family and friends, because he knows it could be their last conversation.

Park has been through trauma himself, having experienced verbal and physical abuse as a child and once being hospitalized after a suicide attempt.

"I had always hoped to enter a field where I could be a voice and sounding board for others who experienced trauma like I did. Only chaplaincy gave me a real place for that," he said.

Here's what Park said dying patients think most about.

Regretting not having lived fully

Park said that regret is a common emotion among his dying patients, mostly centering around thinking that they did what everyone else wanted, not what they wanted to do.

He told Insider that people regret "listening to everyone else's vision for their life except for their own."

"People at the end cannot help but imagine a 'phantom life' of untapped possibility. We are naturally so good at imagination, invention, and dreaming, that at times it can curve inward upon us and we imagine millions of other phantom parallel lives unlived," he said.

There might be other reasons people have regrets, too. Researchers at Towson University, Maryland, asked 124 hospice and palliative care nurses what the most common reflections were from people at the end of their lives. Their study found that 42% of nurses said the most common reflections were ones of regret from working instead of spending time with family and relaxing, missing opportunities, or not accomplishing more.

Leaving loved ones behind

As well as having regrets about the past, Park said that his patients also worry about the future.

He said they have almost an "empathic anticipatory grief," where "the dying person vicariously experiences how their own death will be experienced by their remaining loved ones. It's almost a guilt, a burden, an injury via empathy."

He said: "The dying worry about very specific needs that only they know about their loved ones. I think what can be harder than dying is the fear of separation and no longer being able to care for the remaining."

He told CNN: "Even my patients who are most at peace with their dying are still anxious about how their own death will affect their family."

The researchers at Towson University found that over half of nurses reported their patients worried about their loved ones, namely thinking about spending time with their friends and family, about what will happen to their loved ones after they die, and about being separated from loved ones when they die.

The study also found that spirituality is one of the most common themes in people's end-of-life reflections, according to the nurses, which is why chaplains such as Park can "provide comfort to patients and their loved ones" as well as "attendance to their spiritual needs," as he told CNN.

Read the original article on Insider