Ask What Their Understanding Of The Situation Is This is an obvious question when you think about it, but it is very often overlooked in these days of the medicalization of dying and death. The more common situation is that someone is told what is wrong with them, and assumptions are made as to what this means. In particular, the assumption that the patient wants to be kept alive (sometimes at seemingly all costs) can often get in the way of what that person may actually want. As a relative or friend, you may be in a better position to simply ask ‘what do you understand is happening to you?’ When I asked that of a friend who was dying in 2014, she said she knew she was coming to the end, and she accepted that. But she wanted her body to get a move on – she was finding the slowly drawn out nature of her death to be quite a challenge. She was also quite clear she wanted a certain medication to be stopped, and another started. Finally, she told me she had said all that needed to be said, and that she was ready to go. This conversation helped me to be with her during this time. Be Willing To Accept What Is Happening To Them It can often be the case that family members are the ones who are most distressed about their loved one dying. Hence the ironic situation sometimes heard of when the one who is dying ends up comforting the one being left behind. It can really help a dying person if you are able to simply acknowledge anything they want to say, accepting it without denial. This means you will have to come to terms with it yourself, putting their needs ahead of yours. It’s not uncommon for those who are closest to the dying person to actively want them to die, so that their suffering is ended. I remember simply wanting my late husband to be out of pain, and free from a body that just was not working any longer. I knew it would be difficult for me without him, but when you love someone, you don’t want them to be suffering, even if it means it will be harder for you. Listen For The Metaphors Often a dying person will ‘give a message’ to a close loved one, in such a way that only that person can understand it. Iit is often a message demonstrating their understanding of what is happening. Because I had read lots of stories of this happening, I was very aware when Philip told me he wanted to watch what had been his favourite TV show, Countdown. By this time he had been in hospital for 6 weeks, and had been told there was nothing more that could be done. He was too ill to be moved, so we knew the end was coming soon. He said he wanted to watch Countdown, a popular British programme focusing on numbers and word games. Wanting to watch TV at all was very unusual as he hadn’t requested this for the whole of the previous weeks. But when I heard that he wanted to watch ‘Countdown’, I knew he was telling me that he was ‘counting down’. I found this to be very comforting – the fact that I knew he knew what was happening helped me to be calm for the next couple of days as he became weaker and weaker, less awake and unable to speak. This is a time for tenderness, open hearts and respect shown to all concerned; and it is made easier when we are able to talk honestly and openly about dying, about death and about grief. It is only when those topics are forbidden in some way, or that we are frightened of them, that problems arise. Naturally conversing in this way is part of a good end of life, and part of any plan that is made for that end. I go into this in much more depth in my book, Before I Go, inviting you to start conversations now about this subject, regardless of whether you are caring for someone who is dying or not. The more we become comfortable with this kind of conversation, the easier it will be to accept what is the one thing that will happen to us all. Learn More If you’d like to learn more, and get your End Of Life Plan completed (If you haven't already) check out the Before I Go Method here. Also, if you’d like to check out my book Before I Go, you can do so by clicking here.

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