It can be difficult to know exactly how to express yourself or comfort someone you love, especially if they are in palliative care or suffering from a terminal illness. It can feel like there are no words or gestures to truly convey the extent to which you wish to take away that suffering. You feel as though you need to step beyond your comfort zone to come up with the right words.
The truth is that there is no right or wrong, but what counts most is being as authentic, honest and open as possible. What you say, share, or even write down, is up to you. Below we share some guidance as to how you might approach your communication with a loved one as they transition from this world and onto the next.
Have a Meaningful Discussion
Each person is unique and will be comforted by different things, so the discussion and actions should be tailored accordingly. When discussing the end of your loved one's life, try and focus on their specific needs, or make thoughtful, small gestures that you know they would appreciate. Simply holding their hand or rubbing their back might be calming or pain-alleviating for them. They may find joy and solace in things they can touch and feel, or items that could inspire memories such as photo albums or other significant mementos.
It’s meaningful to shift the focus of the interaction from loss to instead incorporate happy, considerate memories as you spend time with your loved ones. The following suggestions might help steer your conversation:
- Start small by checking in with how your loved one is doing, so you can gauge where their head is at mentally.
- Keep it light if you need to, and talk about topics they seem interested in.
- Ask them what they need so they are reminded that you are there to support them in any way you can.
- Provide a presence, even if you don’t have the words. This allows your loved one to feel safer, reassured and less alone in that you are physically there for them.
Show Love Profoundly
The three little words we are all so familiar with - “I love you” - can provide great power, hope and feelings of comfort to someone at the end of life. Expressing your love as often as possible helps to make your feelings known and avoids any future regret of words left unsaid.
This is not to say that there is only one way to show love profoundly. There are a myriad of expressive ways to show your loved ones what they mean to you. Allow space to get creative with written word, drawings, cards, letters and other gestures to show them just how much they are loved and cared for.
Say it in a Letter
Depending on what feels right, you may choose to write a letter or share your feelings in a tangible form, such as a card. Consider being guided by your reflections on special memories or happy moments that you shared with the person, when figuring out what to say in your note. No matter how far in the past the memories are drawn from, it is meaningful to recount stories to bring joy, laughter and inspire the feelings of a life well-lived.
What is often most cherished by people approaching the end of their life is having the feeling that they mattered or held importance to someone or something. Your letter might highlight the ways in which the person helped you in impactful ways, or how they were essential to you. Here are some prompts when putting pen to paper:
- I will never forget when we…
- Thank you for the…
- I loved that time we…
- You always made me smile when you did…
- I am so grateful that I have you to show me why…mattered.
- It’s because of you that I learned to appreciate…
- Without your help/thoughts/time/love/guidance, I would have never discovered…
Be Authentic, Honest, Kind and Above All: Open
Navigating these intense moments of sadness and grief is challenging, but can be made easier for everyone involved if you remain supportive, authentic and understanding through it all. Remember that it’s okay to:
- Be emotional and expressive. This is what helps you communicate the depth of your feelings to your loved one in the last moments of their life. Sometimes, this is the only opportunity we get to do so.
- Be silent. Silence can be soothing to some people, especially when they can feel your presence.
- Not have all the answers. There will inevitably be many unknowns as you support someone in navigating the end of life journey. Admitting that you don’t have all the answers can help your loved one feel more at ease.
- Be sad, confused and lost. We’re all human, after all.
Supporting someone who is nearing the end of their life can be challenging in many different ways, and saying goodbye is one of the hardest things we experience in life. Remaining authentic, honest, kind and open can equip us to express ourselves fully and enhance our meaningful connections in the moments that are most profound.
For many people nearing the end of their life, preplanning their funeral can oftentimes be a cathartic experience. The team at Willed can assist with this, providing exceptional care at an affordable price. Phone 1300 945 533 to speak with a dedicated funeral planner today.