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Dealing with a loved one who is dying or who has recently passed is a gut-wrenching experience.
I know from recent experience with my friend Heidi- who as you know lost her mom to cancer on New Years Day- how little comments that seem harmless might be bothersome or add additional burden to the loved ones who are trying to hold things together by a tiny thread.
The following are things not to say. Don’t worry if you have said them in the past, we all have. Just try not to say them again or any version of them.
“Why didn’t you call me?”
“I wish I had known!”
“I understand exactly how you feel- (and then go on to offer a non-related illness story *note- if you have lost somehow to a similar illness, feel free to be compassionate, but don’t compare unless it is asked for, it just weighs down the person you are talking to)”
“Please call me if anything happens.” Chances are the family has a list of people to call and unfortunately not everyone can be notified. Again, their primary concern is their loved one.
Things not to do:
Do not push yourself onto the family. No matter how much you might want to see the dying person, this is not about you. If the family feels like the ill person can handle a short visit, be considerate and keep it at that.
If the family says no, we are not accepting visitors, respect that! (Yes, this did actually happen and no, not everyone respected it!)
We have all seen how people come out of the woodwork when someone is ill or has died. Many are long lost friends who truly having compassion for their ill or passed friend. The family understands you once had a close relationship with the ill person, but if it hasn’t been there in many years, don’t come in expecting special treatment.
There are, of course, the lookey-loos. Please, please don’t be a lookey-loo.
I watched Heidi deal with a few over this very trying period and not only did it distress her, but it emotionally and physically drained her. The little energy she did have from taking care of her mom night and day for the last six weeks did not need to be wasted on trying to “coddle” people who had no right to be coddled.
I know this may seem harsh, but this is how I look at it. This is not about us; it’s about them– the family and the person who is dying. Dying is the most personal thing someone can go through and they have the right to do it as they choose.
Now don’t get me wrong- being there for the family and offering a hand when needed is valued and not something you should shy away from doing.
Little things like running errands, taking in prescriptions, picking them up, delivering food, offering to clean the house, and many other things will be accepted happily.
There have been times over this last month where I have just dropped off food for Heidi, a prescription, or whatever she has needed, given her a quick hug and been on my way. There have been other times she wanted me to stay.
My job as her friend is to be there for her the way she needs me to.
Do you have any suggestions on things that have been said or done that you would like added to the list? Let me know in the comments.