Dealing With Death

4 Myths About How to Act When Someone's Dying
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People often adhere to a code of conduct about the end of life that's just not rooted in common sense or reality -- especially when it comes to how to talk to someone who's dying, in their final days or hours. Hospice nurse Maggie Callanan, who has attended more than 2,000 deaths, wrote her book Final Journeys: A Practical Guide for Bringing Care and Comfort at the End of Life in order to take on these myths:

Myth: Don't cry in front of the dying.
They know you're sad. Having the courage to bare your emotions gives the dying person permission to be candid about his or her own feelings. Your tears are evidence of your love. And they can also be a relief to the person, telegraphing that you understand what's happening.

Myth: Keep the children away.
People often steer kids away from death so they'll remember the person in a good light and not be frightened. But most kids do well with simple explanations of what's happening; facts are usually less scary than their vivid imaginations. By cordoning off a child from a natural part of life, you also deprive the dying person of a beloved, comforting presence.

Myth: Don't talk about how you expect your life will change after the dying person has passed away.
It's not like they'll feel left out. You can be sure the dying person is thinking about your life after his or her death -- people are often deeply concerned about this. It's reassuring to hear that loved ones will look after one another.

Myth: If you don't deal with death well, it's OK to stay away.
Some people excuse themselves from visiting a dying person with phrases like, "I hate hospitals" or "I want to remember X the way she was." This is saying that your discomfort is more important than the dying person's final needs.

"You have a responsibility," Callanan says. "If someone has played a positive part in your life, that person deserves your attention as his or her life is ending. I've seen too many devastated people dying too sadly, waiting for someone who never came."
 


8 months ago, said...

What if someone doesn"t want anyone around them when they are dying?


about 1 year ago, said...

I am finding this information very helpful and direct. I've just agreed end to help run a church , Caregivers Support Group.


over 1 year ago, said...

Wow! I have actually thought all of those thoughts and hid my tears today at my loved ones hospice room today. I was afraid I would upset her. This Was very helpful.


about 2 years ago, said...

I was lucky too, in that dad, from whom we were long estranged and who abandoned us when we were young, then reappeared out west years later with a new family (!!) and I had a little dialogue about that. He told me how sorry he was that he was such a poor, neglectful parent. He praised my handling the family, since mom had to go out and work to support us in the decade he vanished. He reassured me of his love, and told me again how sorry he was. While there can still be resentment over favoritism, or some other issue, the healing process when a parent is old and failing frees you, in ways you cannot imagine. I spent long years using lots of energy being angry, and it really did blight so much of what I did - holding me back. So, letting it go, as best you can as YOUR circumstances dictate, can be wonderful. And also, I 'got my sister back' - because I had stayed away from many family functions out of anger. Everyone's end of life healing with a parent looks different, but they all can bring comfort to the people who remain, and a way to move forward with fresh energy, and faith!


about 2 years ago, said...

At the time our Mother was in a coma and couldn't speak there was no way we could be 100% sure that she was waiting to see the oldest daughter. We all knew that she was Moma's favorite being her first born. The middle sister did the most for her and I being the youngest caused the most grief because I wAs too young and they were too old when I was born. It seemed like she hung on though until the oldest got there. After she was there, our Mother seemed to be at peace and was ready to let got and be with her Maker. I was relieved that my oldest sister did go and see her one last time. Had she of come earlier to see her, perhaps our Mother would have died sooner. At least those were my feelings. I am glad that I had made peace with my Mother long before she had this stroke that finally ended up taking her. I had no regrets when she died and I think that was as good as it got for me.


about 2 years ago, said...

About staying away -- can friends or relatives who do talk with the dying person help with this, maybe by finding out who the patient would like to see, then calling that person? It seems like such a pity to be waiting for someone to come, when they might not even know you wanted them!


about 2 years ago, said...

One can always learn from an experienced person.


about 2 years ago, said...

I was raised in an older home with senior parents and I was around death frequently. I remember going to many funeral homes and services, therefore I feel I grew up not afraid to be around people who were dying or even death itself. I had always remembered hearing the hearing is the last to go. When my Mother was in Hospice, she was in a coma. She never had opened her eyes, but I felt that she knew we were there. I had been living with her in her home and had a Chihuahua dog that she adored. My middle sister asked if we could bring the dog to visit her. Of course that would be fine. We waited until evening and brought her. I placed Little Bit on her chest and my Mother opened her eyes just for a second and grabbed Little Bit's tail. Not hard, just a gentle touch. When it was time to go, my Mother did not want to let go of Little Bit. I told her Moma Little Bit can't stay here, but I can bring her back. She never opened her eyes again and the Hospice Nurse said she had given that to me as a gift. I believe my Mother waited until my oldest sister got there to see her before she died. She came at 4PM in the afternoon. My Mother had already been there 12 days and this was the first time she visited. At midnight Hospice called my work And told me the end was imminent. I was only 10 minutes away. They had been giving her a morphine drip. I went and sat on the bed with her and held her hand And talked to her just as if she was awake and had knowledge of what I was saying. I had already made peace with her long before Hospice as we didn't have the closest relationship. But I wanted her to know that it was ok, that she could leave us and we would all be alright. She had made most of her funeral arrangements prior, but there were a few details left for me to take care of and problems to resolve. I wanted her to know what I had done and what was going to happen. I just talked calmly to her. She was not on oxygen and at 1:07AM, she let out a tiny puff of air, her eyebrow raised and she was gone. Hospice is an amazing organization and I was very thankful to have them in our lives.


about 2 years ago, said...

When I wrote my review on YELP of New East Side Nursing Home here in NY I noted that, a few of Kitty's 'friends', once I informed them where she was, said things like ," Well, I prefer to remember her as she WAS.." (excuse me, people..Kitty is still alive as I write these words on a misty morning) My point is simple: When we visit someone who is failing, or has Alzheimer's, or is dying..we are in a way facing a possible future version of ourselves. I have said it before- not all of us may have the courage to do that. And I'll admit, for some, it is daunting. So the excuse some of our neighbors who 'thought the world of Kitty' will cop to: "I'd rather think of her as she used to be.." I don't agree, because that closes a kind of door before the actual time has arrived to do it - personally, I want to share in the experience of being with my 'Sancho'. Some day, as her AD continues to move toward end stage, she WILL pass from this world. I hope to be able to look back and say I was a friend, until that day..and beyond.


about 2 years ago, said...

I liked all the myths being busted, but especially number 4. People who don't visit or even do a phone call just for their own comfort are selfish and don't think beyond themselves. They need to understand that the dying person has needs that are more important than their's.


about 2 years ago, said...

I wish everyone would read this. I'm tired of hearing excuses to ignore the dying. I agree there is a responsibility there.


about 2 years ago, said...

Death can be a teacher for us - opening us to our own mortality, yes..but the other part of that is..we can cherish the life we have NOW. Make the best use of time. A family member of ours has just detoxed from a dreadful addiction. Her almost 'courting death" was inexplicable to the rest of us, for some time as we watched her. But one of the first comments we heard from her was, "I am so glad to still be alive, I won't waste another minute." Maybe that is also worth remembering. Death is sad, of course. No one is making light of the pain expressed by these comments. But living as well as we can for as long as we can should be important, too. With whatever brand of faith sustains us.


about 2 years ago, said...

It's filled with no holds barred truth. Thank you.


about 2 years ago, said...

On December 5 , 2013 my precious fun, big hearted little baby boy died in our home! He was very ill and just 11 days shy of being 4 years old! He has two older sisters whom were right here very much involved and they I believe are handling things much "easier" because they were so involved! I believe we all need love and support through anything we do especially dying! It was an open door policy here! I wanted my baby to have all the love and people around him as possible! Crying, hand holding, reading books ........ No room for regrets!


about 2 years ago, said...

We should all be grateful that Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross came along when she did. She had the courage and sensitivity to face, and talk about the stages of dying. The AIDS challenge, and Alzheimer's have also helped to open meaningful dialogues on this profound issue - how to live well, so that dying is a kind of crowning. That is my own personal belief. I have been present at the deaths of two people I loved very much. Both of them had religious orientations, though they were not of the same faith. The word 'radiance' comes to mind when being in the room with them. To many I think, death means 'oblivion', which is, perhaps why many find it so frightening. A belief that life continues somehow after physical death can give comfort. As a non denominational Christian, I am sustained by the notion that we do 'go on'...To Heaven? Don't really know, just a feeling. But as a recent anonymous commenter said, and I heartily concur - being present at the dying of a fellow human - the end of a life lived fully, that is an honor. And being part of that process, whether nurse, caring friend, family member - it is indeed almost a ..gift.


about 2 years ago, said...

I lived in terror, fearing instant death most of my life since childhood when I barely survived an explosion of nuclear bomb. Being with dying patients in peaceful and normal situations on oncology floor gradually helped transform this fear. It is a wonderful experience to witness the dignity of dying at the end of a fully lived truly human life. It is a privilege to be born and to die peacefully.


about 2 years ago, said...

the part if you don't deal with death well, it's NOT OK to stay away. Felt like this myself at times, and know alot of other people feel that way too, especially where kids are involved.