The death of a loved one is a stressful time commonly filled with anxiety and sadness. Grieving is a natural process, but that does not make it any easier or less painful. If you are aware your loved one is reaching the end of their life, your grieving may have already begun. The truth is, it is not possible to fully prepare yourself for the experience of losing a loved one, but it is possible to plan ahead for this painful time in your life.
It’s important to remember that grieving is a healthy part of life and will help you find closure. Losing a loved one may not be easy, but being there to comfort loved ones and reminisce over the positive memories can help you feel connected to your loved one.
Communicate with Your Support System
If you know your time with a loved one is in the final days, make sure to communicate with your support system. Allowing yourself to be surrounded by loved ones who care will not make this time any easier, but will provide you with a group of people to help you through your journey of grief. Take the time to speak with friends, family, your boss, and co-workers ahead of time and let them know what you are going through. If they are aware of what is happening, they too can prepare themselves to be there and offer the support you will need.
Death is something that affects everyone. It is likely that those in your support system have been where you are before. You obviously will not know any specific dates, but if you are expecting an upcoming loss, your employers will likely be willing to accommodate your needs.
Remind your friends and family that they should not feel offended if you are distant for a while, but also remember to allow them to be supportive in your time of need. The truth is, making the arrangements for your loved one may be emotional and stressful. But with planning and help from friends and family, you do not have to do this alone. You can decide who you want to be by your side and support you through this difficult time.
What to Expect in The Final Days
When death is close, it is common for the body to lose interest in eating or drinking. If this is the case with your loved one, don’t feel like you need to force them to eat or drink. It is also important to be aware of their swallowing ability. If they are struggling, you can help them out by offering small ice chips, frozen juices or popsicles. This may be more refreshing and easier for them.
It is important to remember that this is not a painful process for them. The loss of the desire to eat or drink is a sign that the individual is preparing themselves to leave. Do not take it personally if your loved one wants to be alone or only be with a few people at a time. Speech is often difficult and slow for them; therefore, it is natural for them to not feel like socializing, especially when they are feeling weak or fatigued. It may be beneficial to think about taking shifts with your loved ones so the environment can be calm and quiet for them.
Prepare yourself for your loved one to spend most of their time sleeping and becoming unresponsive. This is normal and it is best to just be there with them. Hold their hand and speak softly and gently to them. Keep in mind that just because they are unresponsive, that does not mean they can’t hear you. According to the National Caregivers Library, hearing is said to be one of the last five senses to be lost.
Your loved one might be confused or disoriented at times, identifying yourself by name when you first speak with them can be helpful to them. Be prepared that your loved one may assume they have spoken with someone who has passed away or speak about places they have never been, this is not a hallucination or reaction to any medication. This is another sign that your loved one is preparing themselves for the transition. Try not to argue or explain to them that they are wrong. Instead, listen with respect and allow free expression. Be in the moment with them and cherish these times.
Planning Their Final Arrangements
Handling the arrangements alone is a lot for one person to handle. Funerals can be complicated and expensive, but planning ahead of time and preparing yourself financially can be beneficial in the long run. Do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help, even before you need it. Funeral homes provide help before, during, and after this process.
If your loved one has not already expressed their end of life wishes, it can be helpful to have this talk with them. Don’t try to force the subject and be direct with it. Instead ask questions about their life and past memories. As mentioned above, they may not be able to communicate all that well. If that is the case, don’t feel like you need to get an answer out of them. Instead just be there and use what you’ve learned from previous conversations to help in the planning process.
When the time finally comes and your loved one has passed away, take the time to call someone in your support system and notify your loved ones. Prior to finalizing any arrangements, take some time to deal with the initial grief. You do not need to contact the funeral home in the immediate moments after death has occurred. If you are at a hospital or in hospice care, the facility will be there to assist you in the immediate aftermath.
Combatting Anxiety and Stress
Try not to ignore your grief, there is always support out there available to you whether it is professional or through friends and family. Having anxiety and fear is a normal reaction if you are caring for a terminally ill loved one. It is easy to overlook your physical needs in times of grief. Make sure to eat well and get plenty of rest. Remember that self-care begins with you. Your own well-being should always be your first priority. It is common to feel like you are being torn apart physically, emotionally, mentally, socially and even spiritually. This is completely normal and understandable given the circumstances.
In the coming days, weeks and months, your support system will be there to help you along your journey of grief. Remember that your body will respond to the impact of the loss of your loved one and healthy self-care will allow you to force yourself to mourn in ways that also help you heal.
If you have any questions about funeral arrangements, grief management or anything else, don’t be afraid to ask your funeral director for assistance. They will be more than willing to help you in any way that they can. Although this time may not be easy, the funeral director and staff will have the experience and caring attitude to help you say a loving and meaningful goodbye.