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Trajectories towards death: how people cope when they are dying
  1. Helen Noble, Lecturer, Adult Nursing,
  2. Julienne Meyer, Professor,
  3. Jackie Bridges, Senior Research Fellow,
  4. Daniel Kelly, Reader in Cancer and Palliative Care and
  5. Barbara Johnson, Senior Lecturer
  1. School of Community and Health Sciences, City University London. Email: helen.noble.1{at}
  2. Care for Older People
  3. Care for Older People, School of Community and Health Sciences, City University London
  4. Middlesex University, London
  5. Services Development, School of Community and Health Sciences, City University London


This article examines major theoretical approaches to the study of death and dying. It presents theories or models that have informed developments in this area and influenced the way care is shaped and delivered towards the end of life. Theories of death and dying are important as the concept of ‘a good death’, and how it can be achieved, is promoted in UK government policy. Two central aspects are discussed: the first focuses on dying trajectories and explores these in patients with cancer, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and old age; the second is concerned with how people have been observed to cope with dying and how they deal with this knowledge. In particular, the article examines the following issues: awareness of dying; coping with dying in stages and intervals or using a task-based approach; hope when coping with dying; and the readiness-to-die theory. The article also explains that little is known about patients with stage 5 chronic kidney disease, their trajectories to death and how they cope with the knowledge that they are dying. Conflicts of interest: none

  • Awareness of dying
  • Coping with dying
  • Dying trajectories
  • Palliative and end-of-life care
  • Readiness to die

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