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Bracing for Goodbye: Finding Strength in Life's Toughest Moments

The time leading up to death can be filled with emotion and unexpected changes.

When a Loved One is Near Death

The time leading up to death can be filled with emotion and unexpected changes. Sometimes, it can be disappointing that our loved ones start to withdraw from family and friends in their final days. But understanding that this is a normal part of dying can be helpful as you navigate these last moments.

Peace with Turning Inward

One family member, Mary, shared her experience with Afterall.

“We could see that my mom was declining, especially over the last six months or so. At 87, she had experienced her share of health issues over the years, which had taken a toll. Her heart wasn’t good, her energy level was extremely low, and she spent most of her time watching TV or sleeping.

“I have to admit I was surprised when she started withdrawing from family and friends. This was something new. It was almost like she didn’t want to be around us anymore. Since I knew she was probably close to the end, I wanted to spend more time with her, so it was extra painful that the feeling wasn’t mutual.

“I didn’t know if I should force the issue or let her be. Looking back, I shouldn’t have taken it so personally. I don’t think my mom wanted her children or grandchildren to see her dying. I just wish I had known how to handle everything better. That would have given me more peace of mind during such a difficult time.”

Without question, each person’s journey toward death is unique. But how can loved ones cope? Whether the decline is gradual or sudden, we hope these tips provide comfort and reassurance while you say goodbye.

1. Find a Friend or Professional

Someone who has weathered a similar situation could be beneficial at this moment, as they can relate to the complexity of emotions you are feeling. While well-meaning friends and family might want you to "move on" or "stay strong," someone who has grieved can appreciate the importance of venting without judgment. They offer a safe space to express all you feel without the pressure of keeping up appearances.

2. Consider Grief Support Groups

If your loved one is in a nursing home, hospice, or hospital setting, ask if you could join any grief support groups. You can also do a quick online search for a local group near you or a virtual one.

Even a session or two could bring you needed perspective so you don’t feel alone in your struggles. Someone who has experienced a similar loss can offer insights from their journey. They can understand the nuances and the depth of the pain, making them better equipped to provide solace. Their empathy is genuine because it is rooted in their own experiences.

3. Turn to Tech

Turn to technology for information and support networks. The wonderful thing about technology is that it can bring people together from all over the globe, making it easier to find help in your time of need. There are also many experts on death and dying, palliative care, and hospice online on social media, blogs, and podcasts that can help you become more comfortable with the process. Finding information is as close as your phone or computer.

4. Seek Spiritual Support

Seek spiritual counsel. Priests, rabbis, chaplains, and other religious leaders can offer comfort during a time of need. Even if you’re not affiliated with a particular institution, many find it meaningful to lean on their faith — and people of faith — in matters of life and death. Chaplains in the hospital setting work to offer support no matter what your religious or spiritual background is. They can also contact a particular type of leader if you need specific rituals outside their expertise.

It can be hard to talk about death — even for the dying person. It can also be challenging to know what to say and when. If you feel comfortable opening the door to certain conversations, give your loved one room whether they wish to talk or not.

5. Alright to Assure

At a certain point, it’s appropriate to tell your loved one that it’s alright to let go when they are ready. Many times over the years, we have heard that this assurance brings enormous relief to everyone involved.

Finding Peace

We hope these tips will help you through these challenging times. Understanding that death is a natural part of life can help you find peace through the process. Educating yourself and getting support can make your journey with your loved one easier.

At Afterall, we know that the journey doesn't end with the passing of a loved one. There's the funeral, the silent house, the first holiday without them, and so many firsts. We are here to support you with virtual and in-person resources through our network of exceptional providers.

We're also here to support you with any insight we can offer. To learn more, take a look at our article From Solitude to Solidarity: A Guide to Connecting in Life's Final Moments.