5 Ways to Support A Loved One Who is Dying

holding hands to indicate supportIn 5 ways to support a loved one who is dying, I offer you ways to honor their passage of time so that you’re left with no regrets.

I’m often asked the question: “How do I prepare for the death of someone I love?”

This is such a great question because we all find ourselves in that situation. And if we haven’t already, there will come a time when we find ourselves in that space. The first thing I’d like to say is that there are different kinds of preparations that are involved.

The piece that I want to address is the emotional preparation. I have 5 suggestions for how you can do this.

Make sure you give the relationship everything that you believe is important to give. In this situation oftentimes it’s good to let the person who is dying take the lead. Take cues from what’s important to them.

1. Think about what you might want to do as a way to bring the relationship to its natural and organic closure. Spend time with your loved one and create memories and experiences together because that’s what’s going to sustain you when they are gone.

2. Make sure you spend a lot of time with them engaged in activities that are important to them. In some families, this doesn’t work well because there are families that don’t talk too much or spend time doing things together . This is why it’s important to take the cue from the person who is facing mortality. They will let you know what they want. 

3. It’s important to record their stories. If they’re amenable to doing a video diary, great. If they don’t like the idea of sitting in front of a camera and sharing stories, here’s what you can do.

Prepare by developing a series of questions you can ask them. Given how much energy they have and whether they are willing to share, ask them to tell you stories.

Oftentimes if you come up with a question related to an event that’s important in their life they will show interest and talk about it and tell you more. That may be an opening for you to lead them to share stories about other things you want to know about them.

Gain their trust. When they understand that you’re genuinely curious and invested in their stories, they’ll begin to tell you more.

4. The next thing you can ask them about is any incompletions they wish to close. For instance, do they have a rivalry or conflict or unfinished transaction with a friend or someone in the family? Gently ask them about it–if it is appropriate and the opportunity arises. Ask if it would feel good to them to complete this and if there’s anything you can do to help support them to complete it.

For instance, a friend of mine had a father who wasn’t on speaking terms with her sister. As he was declining, my friend asked her father if he wanted to try to make peace with his other daughter. Her dad declined, so they let it go. Again always take the lead from the person. Don’t impose your views on what you think should be done, or the right way to do it.

Provide assistance by getting hold of a phone number or an address, or by talking to the person they wish to connect with to facilitate the conversation.

5. Finally, be present to your own sadness because you’re preparing for your loved one to die. It’s really important to find a trusted friend, open up, and speak about what’s in your heart. It’s important to cry. All kinds of issues come up when a loved one is about to die. Sometimes it’s their abandonment of you. Sometimes it’s anger because you feel like your loved one is leaving you. It may sound irrational, but grief is not always rational.

Reach out and schedule a Single Session if you’d like some guidance around this.

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