Working your way through...
living with someone dying
Here are some guidelines that you
might consider as you deal with the impending death of a loved one.
Accept the uniqueness of the dying
process: There is an adage, "we bring to our dying the
resources of our living." What this means is that we must
respect individuals' right to complete their lives in ways that
are meaningful to them. Avoid unrealistic expectations.
Give the gift of your presence:
The dying often seem to be saying in actions, more than words,
"don't abandon me!" This is especially difficult when
there is no cure for the illness. Hence, take advantage of every
opportunity to sit together, hold hands, hug, laugh, talk, listen--all
gifts of that you can give only by being there.
Share your feelings: This is a
difficult one. Denial is not only a part of the grieving process, but it
is also a part of facing up to the death of a loved one. Take the
time to let the dying person know that you love them, that you are
sorry, that you remember the good things and that you will miss them.
Allow others to help:
This is highly important. During the dying process of my wife, I
relied upon friends and family to provide relief for me, allowing me to
conduct somewhat of a more normal life than otherwise would have been
Take time for yourself:
It's okay to not stay around the clock with your loved one. There
is no measuring stick and no one is (or should be) keeping score.
Go shopping, take a walk, ride a bike, get a haircut. And don't be
afraid to cry, since the tears are therapeutic.
Sort out unhealthy belief:
This is not God's will. Pain and suffering are a part of an imperfect
world, not some punishment from a Divine Being. Don't lose your faith
because of the stupid words of others, e.g., "I know how you
feel...""It's God's plan..."
Make memories together: It is
not only not too late, but the special urgency of the acknowledgement of
the preciousness of time can make this a special time to build lasting
memories. Before my wife, Linda, died, she requested a Christmas
party with all of our old friends. Of course, she was bedridden, having
lived nearly seven months longer than doctors had predicted. So,
we brought in a beautician, bought her a new housecoat and prettied up
the surroundings in her downstairs bedroom. The door was left open
so she could see and hear all her friends who would then wander in and
out of the bedroom to chat with her. Then, on New Year's Eve, I
lifted her gently out of her bed and carried her to sit next to the
fireplace, although I knew she was in pain, so she could look out the
window at the wonderful Christmas lights. Three days later she was dead.
Also, don't be afraid to be angry.
It isn't fair what is happening, but it is something over which you have