If you are the caregiver for someone who is dying, it is important for you to know that the dying person’s meaning of death may be very different from yours. Try to gain a better understanding and avoid thoughtless actions when around the dying.
On page 50 in the sixth edition of Death, Dying, & Bereavement by Michael R. Leming and George E. Dickinson, there is a list of eight commonly held assumptions that people have toward those who are dying. Remember these are misconceptions, not facts!
1. Those with whom you work necessarily share your meaning of death.
2. Meanings that were helpful to earlier generations are equally functional today.
3. Meaning remains constant and does not change.
4. Dying biologically is all that is happening.
5. Knowing about the biological aspects of dying will in and of itself provide knowledge about how humans expect to behave in death-related situations.
6. The terminally ill person is the only one having death adjustment problems.
7. The dying person has somehow stopped meaningful living during the terminal period.
8. Talking is the only way for the caregiver to communicate that she or he cares.
I was sitting with my mom and uncle in the hospital room when Nanny called out, “Doris?”
Mom walked to Nanny’s side. “What do you need?” she asked. “I’m right here.”
“Hold my hand,” Nanny replied.
Mom took her mom’s hand and simply held it without saying another word.
When you don’t know what to say to someone who is dying, try to find other ways to communicate that you care. Perhaps sitting with them while the major caregiver goes home to shower and rest is in order. Maybe you could send a greeting card, sing a song, read a poem, gently massage their feet, or bring flowers to their room. There are many good alternatives to talking.
My mother and grandmother are two of the most compassionate human beings I know. Without realizing it, they both understand the sociological aspects of dying. I watched my mom and Nanny care for Pap (my grandfather) and Edmond (my mom’s brother) when they were dying. I’ve had great mentoring through their examples. I am no longer afraid to assist a loved one who is ill or dying.
For more information, you might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase on Amazon.com