Much of life is preparing yourself for the inevitable. However, there is one experience that many individuals must face with strength and dignity, but unfortunately, are not equipped to handle: caring for a dying loved one. If you're in the midst of caring for a friend or family member at the end of their life, here are a few tips and suggestions you can utilize to help them make a more peaceful transition:
Discussing the Past and Present
Many times, simply being there for the dying individual provides enough comfort, but during the long hours providing care, there will come a time when your loved one wants to talk. Senior living website Caring recommends allowing your loved one to set the tone of any conversations – including those about the past and the present.
Sharing memories of the past might be difficult, but often times this is the most effective way to make a connection. For example, bring out old photographs and ask your loved one to talk about their experiences and life. Encourage them to share aspects of their past and personality – and don't be shocked when you learn a few secrets.
When it comes to talking about your loved one's present situation, Caring recommends being loving, supportive and once again, allowing them to lead the conversation. For instance, if your loved one asks if they're dying, don't bluntly say "Yes" and instead ask them "How are you feeling today?"
The dying individual might also discuss "taking a journey" or "transitioning", which is completely normal and if they're open to talking about their experience, be there to listen. According to Caring, often times the individual is seeking permission to leave, and the best thing you can do is tell them you and your family will be okay and it's alright for them to make their final journey.
What Will It Feel Like?
It's not uncommon for a dying individual to ask a simple question: What does it feel like to die? Remember, you are not a certified counselor or a healthcare provider, and because this is your first experience with this profound challenge, the American Cancer Society recommends reaching out to a professional.
For example, if your loved one has a connection with a hospice nurse, their doctor or a spiritual leader, ask them to discuss the actual process of dying. Your loved one might want a medical explanation of what happens to the body during this transition, or they simply might want to know what is on the other side. Either way, if you don't feel comfortable or are worried about saying the wrong thing, it's perfectly okay to seek help.
Is This Okay?
Dealing with a loved one who is dying is both physically and mentally stressful, and you might simply be worried about doing or saying the wrong thing.
For example, you might wonder if it's okay to cry in front of the dying individual. According to Caring, crying with your loved one can show them just how much you care and might encourage them to discuss their own fears.
Exposing children who deeply care for the dying individual to the heart wrenching and often frightening sight of seeing someone they love at the end of life is often another conundrum. However, before you assume that keeping kids away will somehow protect them, this is often a mistake. For older children, letting them say goodbye can be comforting for them and the dying individual. It also provides you with a unique opportunity to teach the child about life, death and grieving.
End of life care for a loved one who is dying is a life altering, profoundly sad experience that many unfortunately must face. If you're in the midst of helping someone you love transition from this world to another consciousness, don't hesitate to seek support and comfort for yourself, as well.