When you know that someone doesn’t have long to live, it is a heart-wrenching and difficult time for everyone. The person who is dying is facing their own mortality and they are also worried about the loved ones that they are leaving behind. Since every loss, every family, every experience, every situation is different – many people aren’t exactly sure how they should act around the person who is dying. They wonder; is it okay to cry in front of them, should I talk about what life will be like when they are gone, is it okay to bring the children to see them? While there is no written rule of conduct of how to act or what to say, there are some emotional “gifts” you can give to the dying so they can embark on their next journey peacefully and with a full heart.
“Gifts” to Give the Dying
- Grant Them Forgiveness // When people are nearing death, they may ask for forgiveness for hurts they have caused and for past offenses. Some people seek forgiveness and wish to speak to a priest, pastor, rabbi, or other clergy member. In these situations, you want to immediately arrange for this to be done. Other times they may ask forgiveness directly from the person they caused harm to, or feel they offended. If a dying person asks for your forgiveness it is an incredibly unselfish gift, if you can grant that to them. That will not only lighted the weight upon their heart, but it may free you of some resentment or ill-will towards the person. Forgiveness is a gift for you both. They don’t want to die with the regret of leaving things unsaid and you don’t want to regret missing the opportunity to tell them that you do forgive them.
- Be Open with Your Emotions // People often think that they should not cry or show deep emotion to the dying, for fear of upsetting them. The fact of the matter is, they know you are sad, they know that you are going to miss them more that words could ever express and they expect that you will show it. Often, when we share our emotion and we weep together, our hearts connect on a level that is far beyond human comprehension. You don’t want to make every visit one of deep sadness, but expressing how much you love and will miss the dying shows how much you adore them. As Queen Elizabeth II said, “Grief is the price we pay for love.” They will understand that your tears are because you love them — and their tears are because they love you. Also, when someone is dying there are obviously going to be some changes in their abilities but whenever possible try not to treat them differently. Yes, you want to say all those things that need to be said before they go however, when appropriate, don’t be afraid to share a joke, memories, a story, an accomplishment, etc. You may even want to talk about what life will be like after they are gone.
- Tell Them You Will Never Forget Them // I had a very dear friend who was dying of cancer. I remember going to her house to visit and the moment she opened the door she threw her arms around me and gave me a big hug. She looked into my eyes and held my hands in hers and said, “Please never forget me my darling. Please do not forget me.” Of course, I looked at her in disbelief that she would even think that could be possible. Her sweet spirit, kindness, compassion, faith, and constant encouragement, touched so many lives — far more than she even knew! I told her I would never forget her and then she said, “I need you to promise you will never forget me.” and I said again, ” I never could.” 10+ years later that moment is engrained in my mind as if it happened just yesterday. That interaction taught me that it is important to let our dying loved ones know that they will never be forgotten. We will think of them every holiday, on their birthday, on the anniversary of their death, we will honor their memory with good works and kindness. Tell them that your children, their children, and their children will hear their name and know what a blessing they have been to those they know. That is a gift that will give them peace and fill their heart with joy.
- Honor Their Wishes // Talk to them about what they would like as far as a life celebration is concerned. Are there certain bible verses, poems, prayers, songs or traditions they would like to be included? Do they have a request of the guests? There are many questions you can ask but let them express their wishes. No judgements, just listen and when the time comes to make their final arrangements, you’ll have a good idea about what type of celebration you can plan to honor and celebrate their life.
- The BEST gift is… // The gift of time. Just be there for them whenever they need you. If you can’t be there is person, then be there for them by phone, email, text. Being present provides peace and comfort and allows you to demonstrate your love and support.
It is tough to watch someone you love fade away, but it can be a real blessing to be there for them too. If you can endure the difficult road by the side of your dying loved one, you won’t have many regrets and you’ll have cherished
memories that will last your lifetime.