Knowing that someone is going to die can be overwhelming and
exhausting. Every moment can feel like the last. The waiting and uncertainty of
the last hour is not easy. While anticipatory grief provides an opportunity for
some people to have last words, goodbyes, and special moments, disease often
prevents those opportunities and sometimes the dying person does not have
clarity of mind to speak any special words. Instead, anticipating a death can
be very hard to watch and there may be moments when you wish it would all be
over already. Those are normal feelings. If you were a care provider, you may
feel relieved now that the person has died. That is a normal response and does
not mean you loved or cared about the person any less.
Here are some things to consider:
- Take breaks – Waiting is very hard. Leave the
room every hour, plan a day trip, and do what you can to create a schedule that
ensures you sleep, eat, and can clear your head. This can be a long road and if
you are depleted you won’t be helpful to yourself or others.
- Ask for help – You don’t have to go it alone.
The help of hospice, friends, and family can allow you to be in your role as
wife, husband, partner, child, best friend, etc. If that is not possible, try
to find a balance between physical and emotional caretaking.
- Monitor your expectations – When we know people
are dying, sometimes we expect things from them they cannot or won’t give,
which could include apologies, special goodbyes, etc. Disease, fear, and many
other things get in the way of meeting your expectations of yourself, the
person who is dying, and family. If you have strong expectations, prioritize
the important ones so you can work to have them met.
- Give yourself permission to feel all of your
If you are feeling relief it may be because you are exhausted, if you
are anxious it could be because you are tired of waiting, if you’re resentful
it could be because you want your life back. Emotions are connected to needs.
When you have a feeling that makes you uncomfortable, ask yourself what that
emotion is trying to tell you. It might be encouraging you to take a break, ask
for help, or get more sleep.
TED Talks - What Makes Life Worth Living in the Face of Death