How We Help

Show Me Where to Begin » The Person Who Is Dying

There are many ways to face one’s death, and many possible emotional states for the person who is dying.

Emotions can include denial, fear, anger, acceptance, relief, and peace. It’s not the time for us, those who will continue to live, to judge the way another person is dying, or to explain to them how they should be dying, or to ignore the fact that they are dying.

It is a time for love – whatever degree of love we are capable of offering to them in each moment.

It’s a time for acceptance – for us to recognize that they must leave and we must stay behind and continue our life without them.

A time for compassion – allowing them to be just the way they are, even if they have become a shadow of the vital personality they once were.

It is a time for putting their needs first – for being sensitive to their feelings and state of mind, for doing our best without retreating into our own discomfort or denial.

A time for reconciliation – for saying the words we were never able to say before, or never imagined we could say, and may never have the chance to say again.

Many Needs

There are many ways that we can support someone who is dying, depending upon their needs in the moment, and on our ability to meet those needs.

  • Some need to talk. So we listen.
  • Some need to be comforted. We do our best to give them comfort.
  • Some need to be told it’s OK to leave. We tell them, look into our own heart deeply enough to understand that it really is OK, then tell them again.
  • Some need our simple presence at their bedside. So we are there, as much as we’re able, sharing the space with family and friends.

What We Can Do

  • We can read to them. Their favorite poems, stories or quotes. Cards from friends. Books they’ve underlined.
  • We can sing to them. Favorite songs and sacred music. Sing together with them or with family. Play an instrument, or recorded music. We can let our voice express its feelings in the moment, even without words.
  • Talk to them. Share our memories, things we’ve done together. Even if they can’t speak or even open their eyes, it is likely they can still hear us and others in the room. Speak as if they can hear and understand everything being said.
  • Pray with them. According to our faith and feelings.
  • Let friends and family say goodbye. Connect by phone so they can hear the voices of those who love them. Encourage callers to share their memories and say their last goodbyes.
  • Tell them that we will take care of things. Whatever is important to them. Their surviving spouse or children. Their home or pets. Any detail they express concern about, no matter how small.
  • Apologize. Ask their forgiveness for anything that still weighs on our heart. This is for us just as much as it is for them.
  • Thank them. Share with them what we have appreciated the most. “I’ll never forget the time you…”

Realize that you may feel more upset by what is happening than they do. Anything you do to attend to their last needs can help center you, and later on, remembering what you did, help bring a sense of closure.

If you can be there, be there.

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