Dealing with Dying and Death

March 28, 2019

While death is inevitable for us all (Sorry if I’ve shocked you!), how we deal with dying is another matter.

Dying and death are delicate topics, even traumatic, and not everyone wants to talk or learn about them. Don’t delude yourself into believing these events will pass you by. They won’t.

So, how can you better deal with dying and death when they intrude into your life? Learning a few tips can help alleviate the feelings of helplessness that often accompany these difficult times.

Dying can happen very suddenly, as it did for my wonderful step-son, in a blizzard on a major highway. There was no time to offer good-byes or any other sentiments. He was instantly gone. It was heart-wrenching .

What helped, especially in the early days and weeks, was to simply talk about him. We talked and shared with each other about our memories of him. We vocalized our appreciation for the values and ethics he shared with each of us throughout his life. And, we laughed together, because laughter was important to him.

Something else that helped was speaking his name. Scott was a loving, thoughtful and funny presence in my life for 45 years. I was truly blessed to know and love him. Sometimes, hearing his name brings tears for my loss. Mostly though, hearing Scott’s name brings a smile and wonderful memories.

Sometimes dying takes time. In a relatively short period after Scott was killed, my beloved aunt and two long time special friends all passed away after lengthy illnesses.

What I’ve learned is that most people who are battling against death still desperately want to be a part of life. They still want to engage with loved ones – family and friends. Before planning a visit, always check with them, or their caregivers before dropping by. They may prefer to visit with you on one of their good days. Phone calls and greeting cards, to let them know you are thinking of them, are often cherished. Talk with the person. Ask what they would like to talk about. They may surprise you. Be gentle and respect their wishes.

When death comes there are so many things that need to be done. Family members can feel overwhelmed with grief and the details about what to do next. If you are really close to them, offer your help by asking what you can do to help. They may not have an answer for you immediately. That’s okay. Let them know you are available.

Keep your conversations short, and don’t pry for details. Grieving people are struggling with a lot of mixed emotions and it can be challenging to think clearly. It takes time to move through grief; allow them time. Grieving is very individual, and depends on the relationship you had with the person. Sometimes they may just want to talk about their feelings or memories of their loved one. Listening is a huge support. Continue to keep in touch long after the funeral or memorial.  That may be when the grieving person needs you the most.

What to say? Simply, “I’m sorry for your loss,” is what works best. You can never know how someone feels.

Your presence may be all they need. Be kind. Be thoughtful.

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