My initial internal response is, “How do you talk to someone who’s living?” Because in essence, there is no difference. The person who is dying is still someone who is living.
When we have a loved one who is on their end journey, we have all been given a massive gift & a gift that is denied a lot of other people. We are given the gift of knowing that time is truly limited. And this provides an opportunity; an opportunity to knowingly share messages of love & to say things that we want/need to say.
In essence, the way we communicate with someone who is dying will be no different to how we communicated with them before we had this knowledge – we do it:
- With respect
- By being fully present
- To actively listen
- To connect more deeply with this person we care about
- To just share time & space with someone special
Because that is how we communicate with the special people in your lives everyday, right? Oh, it’s not? Well maybe that’s something to think about…
There maybe some differences to consider when communicating with someone who is dying:
- We may need to talk more quietly or loudly as per their needs
- Be mindful that emotions will most certainly be heightened – ours and/or theirs
- Conversations become more profound
- We may just need to communicate through silence and/or silent touch
We don’t seem to be peoples who are really comfortable with silence these days & I think that’s where some of the challenge comes from – a need to fill the silent void. I can tell you from experience, if you can just silently sit in love with your loved one – maybe holding their hand if that is OK with them – will mean infinitely more to them (& you) than filling the time with conversation.
Our loved one is essentially still the same person, though their journey may provide some changes in their perspective, or ours. My Dad & I hadn’t had a close relationship in the years before he died, but after his cancer diagnosis, that all completely changed & we had 6 months when we got to share some precious times with knowing that the time he had left was limited.
Remember that it’s not always about their diagnosis, or what needs to be arranged or organised. They are still someone with whom it is worth our time & energy to be with them. We still have the same shared experiences & memories; they are still a person who has value & worth; they are still existing; they are not dead yet.
This is a time when we can do & say what we need to ensure that we have no regrets – think about how you are possibly going to feel once this person is no longer physically alive. Irrespective of what may or may not have happened in your relationship, this is a time for sharing love & an opportunity for any healing that may be required. And consider, if these were your final words with this person, what would you want them to be?
So, how do you talk to someone who’s dying? With a few considerations, the same as you speak to someone who’s living, because they still are.
With much love, Sharon