If you know some of the person’s relatives and friends and they know the person better than you do, ask them how the person is viewing his or her state. That is likely to give you a reasonable indication of how you should approach writing a note, but be careful; close family members, especially, are likely to have a particular opinion on how the person is viewing his/her state which may only be based on their own perspective.
Things to Say to Someone Who is Dying
Oftentimes, we do not know what to say to someone who is near the end of their life or who is terminally ill. To most of us, it is a extremely rare occurrence to encounter such a scenario and we are not experienced in this type of event. In some cases, this may lead to us not visiting or avoiding a patient because of not knowing what to say or do. It can be detrimental to the hospice patient since they may feel more isolated or lonely when those actions are undertaken.
In such a time of need, getting the support of family and friends is a very important thing. In this article, we will be discussing five things that you can say to someone who is dying or terminally ill.
According to hospice nurse Tracy Riley, by the time a person has entered hospice care, they’ve accepted the fact that they’re dying, and it’s helpful for them to know that family and friends have accepted this, too.
“They’re tired of pain, tired of suffering, tired of fighting,” says Tracy. “You can keep praying for a miracle, but the person who’s dying needs you to affirm that it’s okay to stop fighting and to focus on peace and comfort instead.”
Helpful tip: Hospice care tends to last from several days to six months. For someone who spends months in hospice, there will be more opportunities to write and visit, so consider reaching out multiple times.
Get a grip on how the person is viewing his/her circumstances
Some people become philosophical and want, simply and understandably, to make the best of the time they have left and enjoy every minute of it. They don’t want to know about long-faced sympathy; they want to get down and boogie for as long as they are physically capable and Heaven help anyone who writes them mournful messages and forlorn goodbyes.
In fact there are some terminal patients – usually and predictably young ones – who actively go out of their way to party, get drunk, get laid and generally behave outrageously while they still can. And in their shoes, wouldn’t you? I would.
Other terminal patients throw all caution to the wind and marry (or enter into a civil partnership with) their partner, even though prior to their diagnosis they may have dithered and procrastinated about such commitment.
Then there are those in denial. My late mother was one of those. She chose to keep her dignity and serenity for as long as she could, refusing to allow even one of her best friends to come and stay with her for a while because she didn’t want that friend to witness her decline.
Next there are those who accept their tragic fate and work hard to plan and orchestrate their heirs’ future, relaxing only when all has been screwed down and sorted out. These people, I suspect, hide behind a screen of stark practicality and realism … but do they really want to be so harsh on themselves? And on their loved ones?
How to Comfort Someone Who’s Afraid of Dying
Death is one of the most common fears and it’s important to approach a fear of death with caution. If your loved one is afraid of death, here are some helpful tips.
Tip: It may be easier to have this conversation after you read a book about death positivity or the experience of dying. We recommend When Breathe Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi or Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them) by Sallie Tisdale.
Respect the process
The fear of death is real and isn’t an easy thing to come to terms with. If your loved one is afraid to die and has shared this with you, there’s no need to try and fix it. All you have to do is listen.
Listen with no judgment so your loved one feels safe talking with you. Talking with you about it may even lessen your loved one’s anxiety. It’s a big transition and it’s important to make space for this. Respect these feelings and let your loved one know you’re there.
Don’t pretend to know how your loved one feels
Try to avoid statements like "I can’t imagine how you feel," or "If I were you, I would feel. " This isn’t your death experience and you should avoid making it about you. As a family member or friend, the best you can do is show up and offer unconditional love.
If your loved one fluctuates between acceptance and denial of death, it’s okay. Make space for these feelings and be careful not to make any assumptions about how your loved one might feel.
The best thing you can do is show your unwavering support when someone is afraid. Let your loved one know that he or she is not alone and that you’re there every step of the way.
How to Say Goodbye to a Loved One
It is ok for you to cry and be sad. It’s ok to laugh too. Your loved one know that they are dying. They may or may not have come to terms with it. Now is the time to say your farewells because you may never get another chance.
- Hold hands with your loved one. Touch can be more important than words.
- Treat them like the person you have always known and loved. Treat them “normal.”
- Offer to take care of their pets.
- Ask them if they need help making end-of-life plans. Do they need to speak to a funeral director? A lawyer? A pastor? And make it happen for them.
- They don’t need you to bring a gift. Flowers are good, and can make the room look nice, but ultimately what they need is companionship. They need you.
- Honor their final wishes, even if you disagree with them.
- Let the past be the past. Forgive and be forgiven. Life is simply too short.
On the day of your earthly death, take heart in knowing that you will be going to an almost unimaginable place, where you will exist with Christ, for an eternity. – Richard Kelley MD