When it becomes obvious that a death is imminent, itís not unusual for those close to that person to avoid the subject. Sometimes it is because they donít know what to say, often it is denial, but whatever the reason, not discussing the future can make it more difficult for the person who is ill as they need to be able to put their minds at rest and their affairs in order.
There will still be things that should be discussed; these will include end-of-life care and funeral arrangements. Including the dying person in these discussions is a way of honoring their wishes, but it should be done gently and with love. Be guided by your loved one; if they donít want to discuss their impending death, then you should honor their wishes. Obviously those difficult topics will still need to be discussed, but this might be one time you will need to make the decisions in conjunction with other family members.
Not only do the bereaved work through the stages of grief, but often so does the person who is dying. You will need to be there to support them as they go through shock and probably denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Not everyone will go through all stages and the length of each stage, and even the order, will vary from person to person, but at some stage the terminally ill person will need support as he or she comes to the realization that his or her life is drawing to an end.
This is often a time that can, and should be used, to talk to each other, perhaps apologize for past transgressions, take the time to express your love and appreciation and help you both come to an acceptance and a peace about the coming end of life. As the end nears, talk or even sing quietly to them if you are comfortable doing this. Remember this is your time together, if you want to lie with them and hold them, or just sit next to them holding their hand, do what is comfortable for you both.
As the time of death gets closer, it is important that you take the time to say goodbye in whatever way seems right to you both. If you are able to be present in the last few hours, it can be meaningful and a lovely way to say good-bye but not everyone is able to do this. If you are with your loved one at the end of life, remember that they can almost certainly still hear everything you say, so donít discuss anything you wouldnít want them to overhear and certainly not about their impending death in such a way that may hurt them. This is not the time to argue with family about the past or the future and such discussions should take place out of the room.
Sometimes a person who is dying will linger if he or she is worried about those she is leaving behind and how they will cope. Others will wait to see certain family members or for a special occasion such as the birth of a new baby that is due at that time. It is alright to give permission to let go. Sometimes the dying person just needs to hear that you will be okay. Some people worry that by giving this permission they are telling their loved one that they are no longer loved or needed, but this is, in effect, the final act of love that you can show them by easing their mind.
No matter how prepared you might think you are, understand that you will still be hit by grief and may act quite differently to your expectations. Everyone grieves in his or her own way, and it is important we donít judge others for their way of showing, or not showing, grief. Some people have a delayed reaction, some people show no reaction and others show an excess of emotion. All and any other ways are completely normal. Grief can often be mixed with guilt, confusion, relief and many other emotions. Allow yourself time to deal with these and donít feel pressured by other peopleís expectations.
Death may be inevitable but it is still one of the hardest things to accept.