Grief Support of the Dying

If the patient whom we care for dies unexpectedly, we are devastated. Openly discussing the possibility of death is less emotionally difficult when the critically sick person can still talk about it. If the death takes place suddenly, the loved ones can take comfort that they have discussed things over. In addition, confronting the ultimate end-result decreases anxieties and fears, promotes spiritual anticipation and allows the patient and family members to embrace each day more fully. Other benefits become more evident as we examine how we can help them talk and plan for such eventuality during the time of anticipatory grief:

  1. Encourage the dying person to spend time with God each day. Help them draw on their good memories of God to strengthen their faith and trust in Him. They should not hesitate to ask to be left alone to talk to God.
  2. If they have certain issues against God, they should not be afraid to struggle with Him. If they keep on talking to God, their connection to Him will be restored.
  3. However, we also need to remind them that persistence on knowing why they have to suffer or die can be counter-productive as we will never know all the answers. What is more important is how they respond to their present situation.
  4. Facilitate them to spend time with family members, mend broken relationships, restore lost friendships and seek forgiveness from others where applicable.
  5. Encourage the dying to cry together as a family as tears are soothing to the soul. They should say all that need to be said. This includes what they want and don’t want from others, talking about funeral or burial plans, and bestowing a final blessing over their loved ones.
  6. Help them put their financial and legal matters in order. This includes doing up the will, tidying up the bank accounts and confirming who are the insurance or EPF beneficiaries. They may want to assign a power of attorney to someone to take care of the financial responsibilities or make medical decisions when they become incompetent to do so.
  7. If they are concerned with the changes to their physical appearance, get them to talk about their fears or embarrassment, and do what they want to feel better about how they look.
  8. Watching taped comedy shows and reading funny stories can be therapeutic to their pain.
  9. Remind them to keep a balance between hope and reality. They can still defy the odds with God’s help. Afterall, the worst predictions of the doctors are only their best guesses.

All said, the dying needs to be reminded of God’s love and mercy, not His spiritual or moral disciplining. Offer them your compassion and affirmation, not judgment or theological lessons. The objective is to make the dying feel their lives are worthwhile and valued so that they will die at peace with God, with themselves and with others.