Whether the news comes suddenly and unexpectedly or if you’ve watched a loved one’s health slowly decline, hearing that they are not long for this world can be utterly devastating. It may be difficult to put into words how much this person has meant to you, and now that you know just how limited your remaining time with them is, you’re also at a loss of how to spend it with them.
Pre-grieving is a difficult time, not only for family and friends, but also to the person facing a terminal diagnosis. Even though the news may be devastating to you now, it’s important to remember that your loved one is still here and needs you now more than ever before. Here is some advice to help you navigate this extremely fragile time, and how to appropriately grieve and support your loved one in the time they have left.
Handle Affairs Early
After the initial news has broken and everyone has been given time to take it in and digest it, there needs to be a very important conversation about how affairs are to be handled. This conversation may be difficult for everyone to talk through. No one wants to think about the end just yet, but these kinds of unknowns are best handled sooner than later, including funeral and burial plans, how to handle the will and estate, and whether the last days should be spent at home or in hospice care.
Spend Quality Time with Your Loved One
The reason you’ll want to get your loved one’s affairs in order early on is so that more time can be spent on what matters: honoring the life of the person you love. It’s important to remember that your family member is still present, and you therefore need to put them and their best interests first.
You will probably find it hard to talk with them at first. You may wonder, “What can I possibly say to make any of this better?” It’s a tall order, but this kind of thinking can overcomplicate things. Take this as an opportunity to spend time with a person you love and cherish, and try not to let the context of the moment silence you. The best advice is to simply follow their lead. Listen to their needs, talk about whatever they want to talk about, and always put them first.
Prepare for the Emotional Rollercoaster
Even though it’s important to be sensitive, you shouldn’t ignore the elephant in the room. Denial is not healthy for your loved one, nor is it healthy for you. There may be awkward silences. There will be moments of tears, and others with outbursts of laughter. You may feel exhausted each time you leave their side, and you will probably never feel like you’ve spent enough time sharing and listening to old stories. It’s important to remember to focus on your own self-care and wellness during this emotional time. Practice self-care activities, including getting enough rest, to help neutralize the emotional rollercoaster you are experiencing.
As you spend time with your loved one during their final days, you will likely wonder if you are doing enough to honor them and give them what they need before saying goodbye. But as long as you focus on the love you share with that person and give yourself to them through your time and care, then you are doing enough. As HomeAdvisor notes, “After all, that’s what it’s all about: caring for your loved one and treating him or her as you would want to be treated. As long as we show kindness and compassion to our loved ones throughout the process, they will be able to say goodbye with the dignity they deserve.”
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