Let Me Hold Your Hand
If you have ever heard the words, “We are sorry; there is nothing more we can do. She has about one month left to live,” you probably know what it means to feel helpless. Even if you knew this day would come, it can still be a shock to actually hear the words. We think we are prepared, and yet we can still be caught off guard. It can take time to assimilate the information – perhaps days, weeks, months or even years, but what can we do in this moment to make things better?
In the rush of emotions and questions that flood our being, we look for something to hang onto – something that makes sense and helps us feel we haven’t totally lost control. We may not be able to stop the process, but there are still things we can do. Recognizing our fears and feelings is a good place to start. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?” Perhaps it is fear of the physical pain our beloved may experience. Or the anticipation of the loss of our loved one. Or thoughts about the finality of death. The experience is different for everyone depending on the relationship with the one transitioning. Once you see what is causing the problem, you can research ways to resolve it.
There are many places to go for answers. Perhaps the most obvious one in today’s culture is Googling some aspect of the process or questions you may have. This type of research can provide information, help you make informed decisions and feel you are contributing. It can also help shift perceptions that may be causing you or the family pain.
One perception may be that God is doing this to you or that this is some random happening that no one can control. While that may be true to come extent, it can help to remember that the person transitioning is a co-creator with God and does have a say over her life and also her death. This has been demonstrated time and again by people waiting until some special event has passed before they slip out of their bodies.
Another form of research is to talk to someone you trust, perhaps a friend, your clergyman, someone who has experienced the passing of a loved one, or better yet, your own god-self. No one knows your higher truth better than your inner self. This part of you can guide you to do, think, or feel whatever will be best for you.
When you are feeling more empowered, it will be easier for you to support your loved one through their process and make the most of the time left. Here are a few things you can do to make the passing a loving and meaningful event.
First of all, realize this is not about you. The “star” of this show is the person who is passing. Allow her to take the lead for what she would like to experience in her final days on earth. Does she have a “bucket list”? Is there something outstanding she needs or wants to finish? Are there unresolved relationships? Does she have concerns that need to be addressed, like finding a home for her pet? Don’t expect her to be strong for you or to make you feel better about it – she is dealing with her own issues. However, it is possible that together you can help each other.
If there have been upsets and disappointment between the two of you, perhaps this is the time to clear them, but know some people may choose not to address them. Honor your loved one and where she is. If she just can’t go there with you, you can always express your love and gratitude to her. No matter what your relationship has been, there are things for which you can sincerely express your gratitude. By doing this, you will let her know her life has meant something, and it will also eliminate regrets for you later.
If there are no emotional issues to resolve, that is wonderful! In that case you can totally focus on being present for her. Perhaps you can be a physical support, or bring in some meals for out-of-town guests. You could take care of pets or plants and let her know you will find them homes. Ask if there is something she would like to do. One terminally ill patient said she would like to watch funny movies. Offer to rent them and watch them with her. If you do bodywork, you could offer that. These are just some suggestions, as we all have our different ways of being of service to our loved ones. See what the person’s needs are and then fill the ones that work for you.
It may be very easy for you to get to this place of acceptance or it may take some time. Whatever the case, be easy with yourself. You are doing the best you can in the moment. Realize it may take some time. By doing what you can each step of the way, you alleviate regrets you might have later. And, most importantly, you make the experience one of love and deep sharing.