What to say to someone who is dying….how to talk to them. This is asked of our companions, all the time, believe it or not. You are not the only one who cannot figure out if you should avoid the elephant in the room when someone is dying. Don’t, but…
Listen and wait – contribute in the same way they introduced the topic. Discuss in 3rd person or talk about the funeral – let them lead the conversation. Engage at their level, in the manner that they introduce the subject. Don’t change the subject because it is sad or uncomfortable, even if there is a pause. This was hard for them to bring up – sit in it. If they want to worry about a task that is unfinished, ask for more worry – “Is there anything else?” When they are done, then assure them, reassure them and comfort them.
It may not be your place to confirm or deny that that are dying. Just listen to their concerns and ask more questions. This time and their feelings truly are the focus. For instance, assure him that he is in good care or admit that you don’t know what will happen and get him to talk about how he is feeling. As sad as you are to lose him, imagine leaving the world afraid of the pain his death will cause. Reassure him that you understand that he cannot control the future and that as sad as you are to say “good bye,” you are ready to face the future without him. Sometimes this grants him permission, if you will. I love these examples that we have heard over the years:
- You’ve been such a strong person. Such a warrior. If you need to rest, it’s okay to do so, now.
- We understand what’s happening and it makes us so very sad, but know that we will be okay.
- We don’t like what’s happening to you, but you’ve taught us how to find strength in hard times.
- Our family always helps each other through hard times – we’ll lean on each other and grieve together, remembering what makes us a family – our love and respect for each other.
Sometimes your loved one might feel that she have left so much undone or that she should have done more. Help her see what a difference she made – give her examples of how she made a difference in the world, amongst her family. Tell her that her life had meaning and purpose and that her legacy is a good one.
…no matter how much it hurts, this situation isn’t about you. So, please listen more than you talk – your loved one needs you.
Lastly, if your loved one is no longer conscious or talking, don’t you stop talking. In our profession, we have always advised people caring for someone critically ill or in a coma to talk to them, not above them or about them. Talk to them. Apart from the fact that they may recover, it is also a way to support them through the journey to death. We encourage you to keep speaking, to keep telling them how much they mean to you, how much their life meant, and memories you have of them. It has been said that hearing is the last sense to leave someone who’s dying. Let their last words be of love.
Our experienced and dedicated professional staff will work with you to provide the highest quality home care for yourself or loved ones. Circle of Life has a team of professional, qualified people with years of experience. Please feel free to give us a call to discuss your needs: 757-599-0218