Coping with and saying goodbye to a loved one does not come with a one size glove fits all. The journey has no instruction booklet and often we can make very few plans along the way as we cannot say when we will have those final moments with those we love.
Death and dying comes with unexpected loss, loss which has been coming for weeks,loss which creeps up on us when we least expect it. No rules. No way of being able to say- it is now time!
If a person who is dying is able to stay at home and we are able to keep them there with support then there may be a few things which we can do to help along the way for them first and foremost and for us.
Questions we may ask ourselves is;
Am I able to support them through the process of dying? Do I feel strong enough? Emotionally and physically?
That may sound like a thought you automatically want to say yes to but emotionally and physically the journey takes so much out of us and we often run on an empty tank throughout. There are a few ways we can help ourselves help them.
Are you able to take support offered which is going to help? Allowing people outside the family to bring in some food maybe, sit with your loved one while you get a sleep for a while, a shower or even a walk in fresh air which can do us so much good.
Talking to people and sharing how we are feeling helps some people while other’s feel they cannot face talking. We are all individual and there is no wrong or right way to be. Doing what is right for us is the most important thing as this helps us help our loved one through their journey.
What our loved ones want?
Does your loved one have spiritual beliefs? Are you able to help them meet those beliefs? Do they want to pray or you say prayers, light candles [be aware of smells as they can be overpowering maybe], read to them, would they like you to massage their feet or hands, do they want you to play music or sing to them? Do they have traditions they follow or rituals they may want? Do they want people in the room with them? What would be too many folk in the room for them? What brings them comfort and helps ease their transition through to their final moments? Are they and you happy for any children to be with them at any point?
Another important factor to think about is, are they happy for people to touch them and care for them outside the medical care they are being given.
Keeping them as comfortable as we possibly can helps so much. Thinking about how we can achieve this helps but we are not superhuman and have to see and recognise our process and how we are dealing through this experience.
Letting them Go
When our loved ones have died people sometimes think we need to immediately call in help to deal with their earthly remains but allowing them and you to recognise and see it is now time to say goodbye can help greatly through the grief process if this is something you can do.
Spending time saying goodbye, talking to them, allowing our emotions to come up and out if we can, can help some people but as I have said many times before, we are all unique.
Some people believe we should allow the person’s soul to remain undisturbed for a time to give the soul time to leave the body. Irish families still sing to a person around the bed after they have passed away- singing the soul back home.
Some groups come to be with a person and sing ancient blessings to them which can be really beautiful. I watched this one day at a day workshop and the silence and feeling in the room was palpable and special.
My sister’s, brother and I found our sense of humour when loosing our father and then mother was the support mechanism which saw us all through. We supported each other with humour – had my mother been able to get out of bed before she did die, we may have all got a whack around the ear whole for our cheek, as she would say but humour saw us through many, many things in life as a family and still does. It works for us.
Talking to others
In this ever changing world we each have our own beliefs and ways of doing things and can often lack the ability to want to talk to others about what and how we feel but talking can and does make a difference to those I and other people in this field have found when talking to people who have took that step.
Is there a support group near you? Maybe you could start one somewhere? Or could you think of counselling and having a one to one session with someone?
There is a mass of idea’s and support links on this site with the charity Good Life Good Death Good Grief https://www.goodlifedeathgrief.org.uk/ . They hold meetings throughout Scotland and I have found them invaluable for many people.
If you are coping through the effects of cancer for yourself or loved ones then I so recommend Macmillan https://www.macmillan.org.uk.
You may even decide you want to talk to someone on your spirituals thoughts and beliefs and you are welcome to get in touch if you feel I can help in any way firstname.lastname@example.org
I leave you with a poem I love;
In Lieu of Flowers by Shawna Lemay
Although I love flowers very much, I won’t see them when I’m gone. So in lieu of flowers: Buy a book of poetry written by someone still alive, sit outside with a cup of tea, a glass of wine, and read it out loud, by yourself or to someone, or silently.
Spend some time with a single flower. A rose maybe. Smell it, touch the petals.
Really look at it.
Drink a nice bottle of wine with someone you love.
Or, Champagne. And think of what John Maynard Keynes said, “My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne.” Or what Dom Perignon said when he first tasted the stuff: “Come quickly! I am tasting stars!”
Take out a paint set and lay down some colours.
Watch birds. Common sparrows are fine. Pigeons, too. Geese are nice. Robins.
In lieu of flowers, walk in the trees and watch the light fall into it. Eat an apple, a really nice big one. I hope it’s crisp.
Have a long soak in the bathtub with candles, maybe some rose petals.
Sit on the front stoop and watch the clouds. Have a dish of strawberry ice cream in my name.
If it’s winter, have a cup of hot chocolate outside for me. If it’s summer, a big glass of ice water.
If it’s autumn, collect some leaves and press them in a book you love. I’d like that.
Sit and look out a window and write down what you see. Write some other things down.
In lieu of flowers,
I would wish for you to flower.
I would wish for you to blossom, to open, to be beautiful.