How do I convince my Dad that our family will be alright after he dies?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 26, 2016
Bluedog11 asked...

How do I convince my Dad that our family will be alright after he dies? We have a big close family, but he has always felt responsible for everyone's wellbeing. He is very depressed and near the end of his life. He can't stop worrying about what will happen to us when he's gone.

Expert Answers

Audrey Wuerl, RN, BSN, PHN, is education coordinator for Hospice of San Joaquin in California. She is also a geriatric trainer for the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC), which promotes education in geriatric nursing and end-of-life care.

Talking openly and honestly about end-of-life concerns can be difficult even for close families. The inevitably of the situation can make "finding the right words" impossible. Much of what is going on now for you, your family, and your Dad is what we call anticipatory grief, or grieving in advance of the event.

This is a very special time in which to allow your Dad to talk about all the things he has accomplished in his lifetime"”a time to say, "I mattered" and be acknowledged that he will be missed. We call this life review and it is a very important part of the dying process. It is also the time to say "I love you", "I forgive you", or please "forgive me." Allowing these feelings to be expressed, will be helpful to you as a family, and to your Dad.

Many people fear for those left behind. "Who will care for my wife?" "Who will pay the bills?" This is normal and natural. The hospice philosophy embraces the interdisciplinary team approach to care in that all the "parts" we all are"”such as the physical person, psychological person, or spiritual person"”are addressed. In other words, your Dad is not just a physical body experiencing pain, but also a spiritual body who may question why all this is happening (and why now), as well as a social/psychological body who is concerned about his family's welfare.

It might be helpful to discuss things that still need to be done, and ask how he suggests they may be best handled. Get the issues out in the open so he can feel more at ease that affairs will be in order, and that his input is valuable. When a person is at the end of life, reassurance that loved ones "will be alright" allows the dying person to let go and helps relieve all the worrying.

Community Answers

A widow answered...

My husband died in March. Our adult children each had time with him a few hours before...they told him it "was okay" for him to let go. Two hours before he died, I also told him it "was okay" to let go.

Earlier this week, I had the same situation with my mother. I told her not to worry that we "kids" would help Dad and that she could join her parents and brother. She died within 2 hours.