“We understand death only after it has placed its hands on someone we love.” Anne L. de Stael
Coping with the imminent loss of a loved one is an incredibly challenging and emotionally turbulent journey.
Whether it’s an elderly relative nearing the end of their life or someone with a terminal illness, the impending bereavement can bring about a whirlwind of emotions and difficult decisions.
In this blog, we will explore strategies to help you navigate this challenging time, including what to say and what not to say to someone who is dying.
For some people, death can be a very awkward subject and if someone you love is dying, it is often easier to try and avoid the subject.
This often turns into avoiding the person themselves because what do you say? How do you act? Nothing you say or do is going to make that person better and it’s all just a bit awkward.
It becomes easier to just avoid facing it all by avoiding them altogether.
Please try not to do this unless the person dying specifically requests space.
Knowing you are about to die is an indescribable feeling and the last thing many people going on this journey want is to feel avoided.
Instead, make time to engage in open communication, emotional support, and practical assistance if you can to make their journey more manageable whilst also ensuring that you invest in self-care to maintain your wellbeing as best as you can.
What to say to someone who is dying
Express your love and support
Let your loved one know that you care deeply about them and that you are there to support them through this difficult time in any way you can. Simply saying, “I love you, and I’m here for you” can provide immense comfort.
Listen to them and don’t put pressure on yourself to create solutions
Encourage your loved one to share their thoughts and feelings, and actively listen without judgement. Sometimes, just being a compassionate listener can provide tremendous relief.
Discuss their wishes
If your loved one is able and willing to discuss it, ask about their end-of-life wishes, such as their preferred place of care, medical treatments, and funeral arrangements. This can help ensure their wishes are respected.
Reminiscing about happy times and cherished memories can be a beautiful way to celebrate their life and provide comfort to both you and your loved one. It can also provide moments of light relief.
What not to say to someone who is dying
Avoid false reassurance
When someone has a problem, it’s natural to want to find a “bright side” or “silver lining”. And when someone is dying, it may be tempting to say things like, “You’ll beat this” or “It’ll get better”. However, it’s important to be honest and realistic about the situation. False reassurances can undermine trust and make it harder for your loved one to open up.
Using religion to explain the situation
For some people, religion can be immensely comforting during hard times however it is best to assume that when someone is dying, declarations like “It’s God’s will” may not be taken well.
Don’t make judgemental statements
Refrain from making judgemental or critical comments about their choices or decisions regarding their illness or care. Respect their autonomy and choices.
Making comparisons to others
Everyone’s journey is intensely personal so try and avoid comparing a situation to that of others who may have had a different outcome. Each person’s experience is unique, and comparisons can be hurtful.
You don’t have to go through this journey alone
Here at the Therapy Room, we speak to a lot of people who are trying to come to terms with the fact that someone close to them is about to die.
Whether it’s a partner, a family member or a friend – people experience a wide range of emotions during this time – from sadness, anger and anxiety, to guilt, and even in some cases, relief.
It’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to feel during this time and that opening up and being able to talk about how you feel can often be really cathartic.
We also provide therapy to people who have a terminal illness and who feel unable to discuss their true feelings and emotions with family members for fear of upsetting them.
Whether you’re struggling with the impending loss of a loved one or you are the person who has been given a terminal diagnosis, the important thing to take away from this blog is that you don’t have to go through this journey alone. We are here to help and you can contact us at any time.
Founder Jay L Pink Ad.Prof.Dip MBACP PC MNCS (ACC) established The Therapy Room to offer high quality, expert counselling and therapy services to people of all ages, as well as to couples for relationship and partner counselling and groups for corporate and family therapy. Jay’s commitment to anyone visiting The Therapy Room is to unconditionally respect values, lifestyle, background and beliefs, offering a discreet and professional service tailored to their needs.
Therapy is held either in-person at The Therapy Room in Northampton or online.
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