Category Archives: Tips

Waiting for Death

There comes a point in life when you are waiting for death.  Your first experience might be with a loved one.  Your loved one has fought the good fight, but they have lost and their time on earth is coming to a close. You are left with nothing to do but wait.

Most of us don’t wait well.  We want to do something, say something, or find something to keep us busy.  But in this case, there is nothing else to do and no where else to go.

So, what do you do in this time of waiting?

If you have something you want to say to your loved one, this is the time. Do you need to tell them you love them?  Do you want to get something off your chest? Do it now or you might miss the opportunity.  If you loved one doesn’t seem aware of what you are saying, it doesn’t mean it isn’t healing you both.

Just be there.  Hold your loved one’s hand.  Sit by their bed.  Read them a book they love. Or just sit there and be.  You don’t have to do anything.  Just being there is such a powerful statement of love.  It may seem strange that doing nothing could mean so much, but it does.  Witnessing and just being there for someone is such a powerful experience and one you will never forget.  One that will allow you to know how much you did for someone you loved.  Don’t dismiss the power of this time.

You might be saying, “it feels wrong to just be waiting for someone you love to die.” Certainly you are not doing anything active in this time, but there is nothing wrong with being there holding the space for someone to make their transition to the other side.

As a consultant, I had to learn about the power of quiet. When a colleague would ask a client a question and they didn’t have an immediate answer, I would try to jump in and fill the space.  Quiet is such an uncomfortable thing.  However, the lesson I learned (and one I really appreciate being given) is the power of the quiet.  Eventually, the client will say something and it will be their thoughts or ideas rather than mine.  The same is true here.  Just waiting will allow your loved one to make their transition knowing you have been holding the space just for them.

Just being there is precious.  It is tiring. It is hard. And it will eventually come to an end.  So while you may not enjoy this time, learn to treasure it when you have the honor of being there.

 

 

Don’t Avoid Talking about Death to those Who are Dying

Do you believe that you shouldn’t talk about death to those who are dying? Is it unkind, uncomfortable, or somehow wrong? When we spend time with a dying loved one, we often want to avoid saying the words: death, dying, funeral, last days, etc. We try to remain upbeat, telling our loved one that they look good and that things will be fine. We spend a our time talking about every day things, sharing the latest gossip, or complaining about our lives all in an effort to not talk about what is really going on. Our loved one is dying.

Why don’t we talk about death and dying to our terminally ill loved ones? Who in the room doesn’t know that the person we love is dying? Do you believe that your friend doesn’t know they are reaching the end of their life?

I believe those facing terminal illness know they are going to die. When someone has fought the tough battle, whether they will admit it out loud or not, I believe they know they are dying. When in the process of their illness this happens is as individual as we are, but I believe it happens.

By saying nothing about what is right in front of you, the opportunity to really connect with your loved one is missed. The chance to say, “I am sorry- do you want to talk about what is happening?” is lost. The chance to hear how they are really feeling, what they are experiencing, and what they are thinking about is missed.

How would you want to spend the end of your life? Connecting with those you love or talking about mundane things that don’t matter? Share this time connecting with your dying loved ones. If we are honest about what is happening, the time together can be used to share the love between you and to give both of you the opportunity to say goodbye. Why hold yourself back? Throw all your love in; you will reap such great rewards.

Be strong enough to ask the right questions. Maybe your loved one needs your help bringing up the reality that they are dying. It is possible they are afraid to bring it up to you because they don’t know if you have accepted that their death is coming or they don’t know how you will react to the news? The emotional energy to take care of you and your feelings may not be something they have to offer at the moment, but they may have the desire to talk to you about what is happening to them. By taking that burden from them, you both win.

Don’t use your fear to stop you from talking about death to a dying friend. You will know if they aren’t ready to talk about it. But if they are, what special memories you will have of helping your friend prepare for what is to come. Don’t cheat yourself or your loved one out of this chance.

Let Death Out of the Closet

Feeling Grateful

Gratefulness has been in the front of my mind for a while now, and I am working on being grateful for as much of my life experience as I can. I am not perfect, and I will be a work in progress until my last breath on this earth.

I have a lot to be grateful for. I am a very lucky woman. I know what my soul’s path is and I know, at least in part, how to fulfill that path. For that I am grateful. I also try to be grateful for the little things, like a sunny warm day after a long wet weekend, which is exactly what we had here in VA today.

Every one of us faces the fact that our time on this earth is getting shorter. We may have one day, one week, one year, or many years to spend here on earth. No matter how much time we have left, it feels so much better to sit in a place of gratefulness than to forget what gifts we have and how lucky we are to have had the experiences we have chosen in life.

When we know our time is growing shorter, we can spend of lot of time thinking about what didn’t happen, what we didn’t have or get, and remembering all the things we did wrong. Instead, I challenge you to sit in a place of gratefulness for all you do have, all the people who you touched and who touched you, and the good things that have happened in your life.

I know that as soon as I start thinking of what I am grateful for, an instant smile comes to my face. See if that happens for you. You know, smiling releases endorphins and instantly lift your mood making you happier. So, in a time when it may feel that there is nothing to be happy about, you can make yourself happier by being grateful and letting it bring a smile to your face. Why not give it a try?

Wishing you Peace and Joy

Jackie

Adding More Joy by Not Always Discussing Your Health

When friends and loved ones talk to you, I am sure one of the first questions they ask is “How are you doing?” or “How is your treatment going?” These are questions asked to show you they care and are thinking about you. But how do they make you feel? Do you want to re-count your medical situation, treatment schedule, and all the more mundane facts about your medical care to everyone you talk with? Does that part of the conversation bring you any joy? If yes, then keep doing what you’re doing. If the answer is no, then maybe you should create a way to stop having that conversation and bring it up when you want to.

This is your life, and you do have the right to talk about or not talk about what you want. So, I am going to suggest that you give the responsibility of keeping everyone posted on “the medical stuff” to someone else. Maybe it is your spouse, maybe an adult child, or maybe your best friend. You can have them set up an email mailing list for updates, you can establish a Facebook page for updates, or you can use a service like Caringbridge.org. This will allow those that want to be kept up-to-date with what is happening to you medically aware of the details, and it takes the pressure off of you and those close to you to recount it over and over. Think of this as something loving you can do for yourself and those you love.

When someone asks you how you are doing– tell them. If the questions continue, let them know about your site or ask them if they want to be on the mailing list. It is ok to set some boundaries by saying “I would rather spend my time with you talking about important things. I don’t want everything to be about my medical situation. I love you for asking. So, what’s happening with you?” Then you both can get on to talking about what connects you to each other and finding some joy in the time you spend together. Those memories will be much more powerful for both of you than any conversation about your medical condition.

Always find the joy!

Lifting the Veil

There is a thin veil that exists between this life and the “other side.” Most of us do not get the chance to peek behind the curtain, until we are very close to passing on. At that time, I believe the veil thins and we have the opportunity to see what is behind it. At times we may think our dying loved ones are “crazy” because what they are saying doesn’t makes sense or they “see” someone that isn’t physically there. Well, is it possible, that they aren’t “crazy” but seeing behind the veil? Seeing into a world that you can’t see into right now?

When my mother was dying and nearing the end of her journey in this life, she told me that she saw her one of her relatives standing near her bed. I never met this relative, because she had passed before I was born. This relative wasn’t standing where I could see her, but I am convinced that she was there. As the veil thinned, my mother was able to see to the other side. She saw those she loved. Seeing those who died before her so that she wouldn’t be scared to pass on. She knew that those who loved her were waiting to greet her when she arrived. In her more lucid moments, she realized that they weren’t “really” there but it felt very real to her. I am not sure if she could distinguish the thinning of the veil from the dreams she was having while she was sleeping. I am also not sure it matters. It comforted her and that was all that was important.

I think we, the families of dying loved ones, have an opportunity to learn about the process of dying from those who go before us. I also think that we have the privilege of supporting those we love in ways we never expected. When your loved ones are dying, they may tell you things that don’t make sense. Instead of jumping to “they’re crazy” or hallucinating….ask yourself if they may just be seeing through the veil. If so, isn’t it better to be loving in that moment than patronizing? Not only is it more loving to them, but it is more loving for you. Why? Because when you look back on it, you may feel badly that you assumed they were delusional, when it might have been their opportunity to see behind the veil.

Remember: Love is the purest and most important gift we can give.

Never Know What to Say???

Have you ever wondered what to say to someone who was sick? To their family? An op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times on April 7, 2013 written by Susan Silk and Barry Goldman might help. They won’t give you the words to say, but they do give you a bit of perspective on how to direct your statements of comfort or expressions of discomfort.

The Ring Theory, which Silk and Goldman describe and created, states that the person who is facing the medical crisis can say anything to anyone. This person is in the middle of the ring. To start building the ring, write out this person’s name and draw a circle around it. For example, if a child, Ben, is having an operation, then Ben’s name goes in the middle circle. Ben can say anything to anyone. He can cry, whine, complain, or scream. Then draw a larger circle around Ben, and put the person closest to Ben in this circle. Likely this will be Ben’s parents.

Silk and Goldman’s theory says that your job is to provide comfort to those in rings closer to the center than you. If you want to express a fear or discomfort, you must share that only with people in your ring or ones larger than yours. So those in this second circle (i.e. Ben’s parents) will provide comfort to Ben. They will likely never share their fears with Ben, because that wouldn’t be comforting. Then draw another ring around the previous two. In this ring are the next closest people, likely brothers and sisters and possibly grandparents. Ben’s parents can share their fears with those in this circle, but the folks in this circle will only provide comfort to Ben and Ben’s parents. A bit further out are the Ben’s friends, and then even further out would be the parents of the friends. I think you get the idea.

I love this! So often we worry about what to say and if we will say the wrong thing. If we always remember to provide comfort in and keep our concerns and fears out, then we will not say anything too burdensome to a person who is closer to the situation than we are.

What if you don’t know what circle someone falls in? If you are at all unsure, then say only comforting things. Just keep your concerns to yourself. You surely have a trusted friend to whom you can share your angst.

What a blessing to help us ensure that we aren’t putting our fears and concerns on those already dealing with so much. I hope this is something you will use and find helpful.

To see the full article, go here….it is worth the read. http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-0407-silk-ring-theory-20130407,0,2074046.story