Do you think people can have a good death? We all wish we could help our loved ones have a good death when it’s their time. Obviously, sometimes death is unexpected and there is no way to prepare them or yourselves. As a Nurse, I have always felt very strongly that death is a natural part of life, and when we have time to prepare, I believe we can help our loved ones have a peaceful and even a “good” death.
- Have a family member or close friend stay with them
When we know death is near, keep someone at their bedside to provide comfort, and help them feel they are not alone. When it became clear that my Mother was dying last February, we tried to have someone sitting with her as often as we could. It gave us comfort knowing that she was not alone in a hospital bed, and that one of her 3 daughters, or other family members was right there. It also helps because we often noticed something that may have been missed, if someone wasn’t always there. We could help make her comfortable, or ask for help.
2. Don’t be afraid to touch them
Even when someone is in pain, there are usually ways you can touch them to give them and yourself comfort. Gently holding their hand is a wonderful way to show that you are there. If it helps, you can rub their back, stroke their hair, or even just move close and snuggle next to them. When I stayed with my Mom overnight, I would put her side rail down on the side I was sitting and put my head on the bed next to her pillow and keep my arm around her. Sometimes this was for me as much as for her.
3. Talk, Pray and Sing to them
Even if it seems they are past talking or listening, they may be aware of your comforting voice and even be listening. We would tell my Mom what cute things her great-grandchildren were doing or saying and she often became more alert and even responded with a sweet. “oh?” Another thing we did was sing to her, she LOVED music and when we ran out of things to sing, we sang the old songs she sang with her sisters when we were kids, hymns, and even the lullabies she sang our children! We prayed with her and for her out loud, and that was the last thing she heard on her way to heaven.
4. Do things to help them be more comfortable
Finding little ways to make them more comfortable is therapeutic to you, too. You can apply lip balm to their lips, give them drinks of water while able, help feed them, gently rub moisturizer on their skin, notice if they seem too warm or too cold and apply and remove blankets as needed. I enjoyed brushing my Mom’s hair and helping her look nice (which was important to my Mom, as it is to most of us).
5. If they are not at home, bring clothes, blankets and pictures from home
Especially while they are alert, it helps to have their own clothes, nightgowns, blankets and pictures to make their last days more home like. My Mom loved looking through old pictures on my phone, she would scroll through and have me explain each one. She felt more comfortable in her favorite nightgowns, with her favorite fleece blanket over her.
6. If there’s something you want to say, now’s the time!
Don’t leave things unsaid. That doesn’t mean it’s time to re-hash old hurts when someone is about to die, but, you can say, “I wish we would have spent more time together,” “I’m sorry we didn’t always agree,” “I have always been so proud of you,” “ I love you,” etc. Most of us have a good idea of what is appropriate to say, but, if you’re not sure; ask someone! Sometimes, this time can be a healing time for those who have had rough relationships. It isn’t always so, but it can be.
7. Let your friends support you
So many of us always say, “we’re fine”, we don’t need help, so often that, when the really big life events happen…we don’t know how to say that we would love some help or support! Let people help! It helps them to be able to help you! When people ask, tell them specifically what you need. Things like, pick up my kids from school, let my dog out, feed my dog, bring dinner on Wednesday, etc. It also helps, if you are the one offering, to not just say, “let me know if you need anything.” Of course they need things! It helped me when a friend said, “can I bring you a meal on (whatever day)?” Offers to pick up groceries are helpful, too.
8. Don’t feel guilty when you need a break!
There comes a time when you just need an hour’s nap and some real food-don’t feel guilty about that! My sisters and I had an agreement that we would call the others if it looked like death was imminent. We gave ourselves breaks every once in awhile. It’s ok! It worked out perfectly and we were all there when my Mom died. There are long days ahead getting ready for a funeral and all the legal things required. It helps to not be completely drained when that time comes, although, that sometimes can’t be helped. Do what you can to care for yourself, too.
Well, those are my thoughts, but I really have so much more to say on this subject. My Mom passed away last February 29, and it’s taken me almost a year to write anything.
What do you think can be added to this list? Do you have things that helped you make the death of a loved one better for them and for yourself? Please share in the comments!