7. The one who is dying needs you to reach out. They may hesitate to voice their deepest thoughts and feelings. They don’t want to upset others. Caregivers do the same thing and so everyone tiptoes carefully through conversations. What happens is both the dying person and those around him or her begin to feel isolated and lonely.
* Connect by talking. Speak as an equal. Say what you think. Express what you feel, but don’t push them. If tears come that is good because it is a sign you care and you wish this wasn’t happening. Be honest. Talk simply. Avoid secrets.
* Connect by listening. Real listening takes work, but it is the greatest gift you can offer. Listen without interupting, judging or shying away.
* Connect by encouraging memories. This helps the dying person make sense of their time on earth. They want to feel their life mattered and their influence will not be forgotten. Leaf through scrapbooks and old letters with them. Look at pictures, tell and re-tell favorites stories.
* Connect by touching. Hold their hand or touch their arm or shoulder or head. Stroke them, massage them, hug them. Touching lets them know you are with them in every way possible. Even when they can no longer speak, speak to them with soothing words or a gentle caress.
* Connect by just being present. Sometimes the most thoughtful way to reach out is by not saying anything or doing anything. By sitting or working quietly in the same room, you are communicating “I enjoy being with you.” “Iam right here. I care.” The dying one wants to know they are not alone. It’s up to you to tell them in as many ways as you can.
8. Your relationship will change as you go. Too much will be changing around you for a change not to occur.
* A special closeness may develop by addressing problems that have separated you or speaking words of appreciation or love you haven’t spoken in a while, if ever.
* The dying person will probably depend on you more. While it’s important not to take from them their power or freedom, they may come to count on you in ways they have not in the past. They may need more physical assitance or emotional support, help with planning or taking over for them in various ways.
* Eventually the dying person will begin to withdraw. They will start to turn inward and pull back, want to see fewer people, desire more quietness. This does not mean they are negating your relationship. They are not withdrawing from you personally so much as from life itself. They know you cannot go where they’re going and they’re doing what they must.
* The one who’s dying will want to know you’re with them to the end. Even as they pull away, they will want to feel they’re cared for and they have your blessing to go. It may help them to hear those very words. It may help you to say them. They will sense you’re with them when you whisper your love, promise your remembrance, hold them with tenderness, honor them with tears.
9. Making important decisions early can head off significant problems later. While you do not want to rush them to make decisions because it takes a while for the reality of what is happening to set in, you will benefit from handling them as early as possible, while their thinking is still clear and before others are forced to make decisions for them without adequate information.
Decisions to be made:
*How the person wants to live and die. Execute a living will.
*Whether they want a burial, cremation or their body donated to science.
* Where and when a funeral or memorial service will take place. Who will speak? Any special readings or music?
* Preparing a will and giving instructions about one’s assets and family matters.
10. Know this is a natural time for inner searching. People who know they’re dying often become more reflective, pose questions that are hard to answer, worry about what will happen after they die, and talk more about spiritual experiences. Chances are you will do the same.
Sometimes it is helpful to find a caregiver for yourself – a safe person to talk with or a support group. Some keep a journal of their dreams and prayers, carve out some time each day to be quiet and meditate, listen to music that inspires them or read scriptures and pray.
11. This experience will extend beyond the end of your caregiving. No one knows what they will feel or how they will behave when the one they love dies because even when we think we’re ready, it is still a shock when it happens, requires some adjustments and still hurts.
12. For all the turmoil and sadness, you still have reason to hope. As you attend their dying, you can hold hope for their continued comfort, be optimistic they’ll use this time in positive ways – perhaps resolving the past or enjoying the present, finishing crucial projects or starting new ones, drawing close to others or to a Supreme Being.
You can hold hope for yourself that you’ll keep doing the best you can under the circumstances. You can trust you’ll find resilience and strength, acceptance, understanding, assitance and companionship when needed.
You can trust that as you prepare for your loved one’s death, you will become better prepared for other deaths that will surely come, including your own.
You can be aware that this experience will influence how you live as well as how you die.
“As you walk softly and bravely with your loved one as far as you can, you will know that beyond all doubt this journey has a name. Its name is love.” James E. Miller
These 12 thoughts to guide you on the journey when someone you love is dying, are excerpts from a little book by James E. Miller, titled ONE YOU LOVE IS DYING. Willowgreen Publishing.