Michael and my Dad, this is the way to visit someone: bring smiles and love.
Learn some ways for how to help someone who is dying be at peace and feel loved.
There aren’t a lot of cheat sheets on how to help someone who is dying go through the process feeling loved and supported. Not to mention how to help those around them who struggle with the imminent loss!
For many, hospice creates the space for family, friends and loved ones to express their love for the life of the person who is at the end of theirs. Even with this in place, when someone you love is closer to death why do so many people avoid them? And others who are grieving? Teaching our children and one another about death and dying is not part of most public education or any formal education. Most of us learn about grief and dying from those who raised us. I want to offer a little insight into loving yourself and others through a time of dying.
When my friend’s mom went into hospice, she knew her options and she chose not to go on dialysis, not to continue medical intervention, she chose how she would enter into death and my heart was full, because she chose and she was at peace with that choice. She wanted her children, grand children, friends and loved ones to have a final conversation, with her and for them, to share some smiles and some love with her and one anther. Unfortunately, this can be very difficult for many.
Her daughter a dear friend of mine was having the hardest time understanding her mom’s decision. She just could not imagine her life without her mom being alive. Sometimes we get stuck in thinking about how a loved one dying affects us and we miss the importance of their final days, their final wishes and the power in a touch, smile, text, gift, or connection.
I have heard many people say, I do not want to visit them in hospice or the hospital or in some other diminished capacity because I want to remember them “as they were”, why? Dying is part of living and a part of who they are. If we love someone when they are vibrant and happy it is just as important to love them when they are frail and closer to death than to birth. Aging is about changing and every moment of life is a gift even when and if they no longer recognize you. Yes it can be difficult but try and figure out what you can do out of love and care for your person.
If you are like so many who can choose to ignore death, hospice and the fact that someone you love may be dying let me offer three things to consider, if you love them and want to remember them fondly even in their dying:
- No regrets: Make sure you tell the person, how thankful you are for them. I suggest doing this in person. If you can put aside your fears and open your heart to lovingly approach this person and share with them your love, through, your presence, your touch and lastly your words. If you live far away or cannot go in person because of your own ‘stuff’ around dying (we all have “stuff” around dying) then think about what you can do. How about writing a letter that someone at their bedside can read to them expressing your love, and a favorite memory of them that warms your heart. Just a note to let them know you are thinking of them. Say, share what is in your heart before they are gone. No regrets.
- The person who is sitting beside them needs your love and your support! Sitting in silence while your loved one is dying is a noble task, which takes, courage, selflessness, and love. Please take time to express your gratitude to that person or persons who are there for every tiny moment for every final breath, they need your love and care. If you are local or in person, sit in their place so they can, eat, sleep, shower, take a walk, whatever they need to do, so they are able to once again sit beside their loved one. If you are not able to do that, then text them, call them express your love and thankfulness for them. Just sit on the phone and listen to them, let them say what they need, but do not say “I know how your feel”. Just listen and tell them you love them and that you are a phone call or text away. If you are a family member and can encourage them with memories, encouragement and kindness, please do.
- When the person passes, the funeral and visitation are for those who are left behind and an opportunity for everyone to know how special and important that person’s life was to all those around them. Everyone who has come in contact with your person has a different perspective and story that will bring joy to the community who is missing the physical presence of this person. Sharing love, hugs and stories is part of the grieving process and helps people remember the good times and helps the challenging times fade ever so much, little by little. You are an important part of the saying good-bye. Being a part of the grieving community not only helps those closest to the person but helps all the people who are mourning together.
I will write more on the topic of grieving and the importance of ritual and tradition. None of us are in this world alone, connection with love is the true richness of life. And it starts with knowing how to help someone who is dying make that transition surrounded with compassion, support and love.