Things to Do When Someone You Love Is Dying
Coping with death is never easy, regardless of whether you know someone is going to die due to a lengthy illness or if they pass away suddenly. I know what I am about to share this week is probably hard for you. It is hard for me, too. Death does not discriminate by age, sex or race. Death can be overwhelming, deeply painful, and yet sometimes peaceful at the same time. We all have to deal with the sting of death at some point in our lives. For some of you, this will conjure up some great memories, and for others, it may trigger some emotions you haven’t felt in a while. As we face this difficult discussion together, let me ask you this, “If someone you cared about was dying, what would you do differently?” Here are some things to think about when faced with the difficult news.
Don’t Let the Past Get in The Way: Have you ever heard someone was dying and you have had a falling out with that person? This is not the time to dig in your heels and insist they are getting what they deserve. First of all, that is a cruel statement, and secondly, our bitterness often turns into regret. None of us are perfect people. We do and say things which can cause great hurt and sorrow to one another. Think of how you would want to be treated in this situation. Would you rather hang onto your pride or find a way to forgive or to receive forgiveness where that is appropriate? Forgiveness is a powerful gift. We often think we have all the time in the world to make amends, but there are times in our lives when we are not afforded such a luxury. Being in ministry, I can’t tell you the number of times I have spoken to a person who wished they had reconciled their relationship with a family member or friend before they died. A life of regret is consuming. No one likes to say, “I wish I could have.” I realize there are some relationships which can’t be restored, but then it becomes about making peace with the situation. Giving forgiveness isn’t just for the other person, it is for you. Every moment you hang onto unforgiveness turns into hours, days and years you allow the situation to consume your life, robbing you of peace and joy.
Make More Time With Them: Why do we wait to hear someone we care about is dying to spend time with them? Every day we have the opportunity to spend time with the people we say we care about. It doesn’t always have to be in person. In this age of technology, we have many ways to be connected. We can facetime, chat, call on the phone, Skype, write an e-mail, text or even take the time to visit. We tend to live in our own bubble because it is convenient and routine for us. However, life is anything but routine when we know our time on earth with a person we care about is coming to an end. The value of a phone call, a ten-minute visit, or an e-mail may be deemed priceless by the person on the receiving end. So often we say we don’t have time, but the fact is each of us makes time for what we want to do. It’s the reality we all live with. Can any of us honestly say we do not have an extra ten minutes in our day to devote to letting someone know we are thinking about them? How much time do you spend on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter? Trust me, I am just as guilty, but I bet this is an area we can all improve on in our lives.
Use Your Words: Many times we go through life never knowing what our impact is on other people. Tell them how you feel. There are people I wish I had told how much their life had influenced me, but I didn’t. Sometimes, we don’t even realize the full extent of their impact until they are gone. I lost one of my dearest friends three years ago, and the most treasured conversation we had was sharing with each other how we influenced each other’s lives. We laughed and cried for hours. This also gave her the opportunity to share her heart about what her concerns and wishes were for when God called her home. When words are life-giving, they become a great source of healing, happiness, and wholeness.
Capture More Moments: I used to hate having my picture taken because I thought I had to look perfect. I needed to have my hair just right, my lipstick on and make sure the picture was taken at a good angle. I don’t worry about that anymore because the pictures or videos aren’t about me, but about sharing precious moments with someone, I care about. The candid moments of life captured in a picture, conversation or video are what will live on in your heart. Photos make memories come alive and become a source of healing and wholeness. I have saved a voicemail from my friend, that when I am missing her, I will play over and over again just to hear her sweet voice and laughter. My mom hasn’t passed away, but I have videos of her that capture the very essence of her joy! The more moments you save, the more memories you will have to hold on to and remember the good times.
Ask Them About Their Faith: For many of us, our faith is the foundation of who we are. Faith gives us strength to get through the most difficult times in life. Click To TweetFaith gives us the strength to get through the most difficult times in life. Faith provides our hope for what is to come after this life is over. Faith helps us persevere in times of adversity and brokenness, and brings peace to our souls. Faith is the gift God gives us to encourage us. Don’t be afraid to ask your friend or family member where they are in their faith. Anytime I have asked a person about their personal beliefs, they have always wanted to talk about what they believe, or what they don’t believe. A one on one conversation gives you the chance to share your heart. As a Christ follower, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask them if they knew my Jesus. They may accept or reject your belief, but if you share Christ with them, you have given them the opportunity to receive everlasting life. We can’t wait for eternity to ask the most important questions of the people we love.
Recently, I asked this same question on my Facebook page, “If you knew someone was dying that you cared about, what would you do differently than you are doing right now if anything?” Here are some additional suggestions others shared:
Be There For the Family: Sometimes the greatest gift we can give to one another in a crisis is time. When someone is caring for a gravely ill person, life doesn’t stop. Groceries still need to be purchased. Meals need to be cooked. Laundry needs to be washed. If young children are involved, they have needs all their own. Offer to take the children for a few hours or an overnight. Offer to sit with their loved one so they can take a break. Sometimes, a family member just needs a nap. Encourage and love on the living as well as the dying. It was important to my friend for me to check on her husband, not only during the process of her leaving us but afterward too.
Keep Talking to Them: I’ve heard from respected medical professionals when someone is dying their hearing is the last sense to go. Many of my friends who commented on my FB page also reiterated to keep talking to them, and shared how talking or singing would calm their loved ones from an agitated state. I know from my own experience with my grandmother that singing was a great comfort to her because even though she was not able to say anything and would even appear unconscious, she would smile when we sang to her.
Go the Extra Mile: The extra mile will be worth it in the end because you will know you have done what you were supposed to do and not live with regrets. Saying goodbye gracefully is not only for the one who is leaving you behind but for you too until you see them again.
We are never promised a chance to say our goodbyes, but when we are given the opportunities let’s make the most of them and treasure the time with those we love and care about.