“Death is a challenge. It tells us not to waste time. It tells us to tell each other right now that we love each other “- Leo Buscaglia
Some people with a terminal illness like Cancer or AIDs face the fact that their end is sooner than it should have been. Their bodies stop responding to treatment and there’s not much science can do to heal them. This is a confusing time for both the patient and their family. No matter the time you are left with, you can never fully be prepared for death, whether your own or a loved ones.
No one wants to face death, and no one wants to watch their loved one go through a process of decline. But certain things in life, ironically even death, demand practicality and strength.
Here’s how you can begin the bereavement process and prepare for death in your family:
If you are a caregiver of someone close to death:
- Providing comfort: Doctors and nurses can guide you on the steps you can take to create comfort in the final days of a loved one. Usually, by this time, the patient is not able to do most of his daily tasks on his own. Ensure they sleep on a comfortable bed and it’s warm and cozy for them. Speak reassuringly to them with things like, “Everything is fine, we love you, we are here for you.” Sometimes, the most comfort you can provide a person is the comfort of silence. Sit with them and hold their hands and just offer them your companionship.
- Calling for help: The patient’s condition may change many times in a day. Sometimes, they may experience severe pain and discomfort. At times like these, you should know whom to call for help. You should have the doctor and nurse’s number handy because stressful times like these may become overwhelming. It is always better to involve a professional for pain management.
- Seek counseling: Caring for a loved one who is close to their last moments is emotionally hard and overwhelming. Preparing for death is a process for both the patient and his family members. There are a lot of NGOs and Palliative care centers that offer support for bereavement for everyone involved. This helps in being mentally prepared for when the final moment arrives.
- Cherish your time together: Death is inevitable for all mortals. Just because you are aware of your loved one’s diagnosis does not make it easier on you. What you can do is make the most of your time with your loved one. If their health permits, you can go for short walks together, read books or watch movies. These are not just moments but memories you are building for a lifetime for yourself and allowing your loved one some dignity in their final months.
- Sort practical matters: Practical matters like will, bank papers, bonds, etc. need to be taken care of. This will make things easier for the family after the person’s passing, especially, if they are the bread earner of the family. It is also important to ask your loved one whom would they like to see in their final weeks and understand their funeral wishes if any.
If you are the patient yourself:
- Allow yourself to grieve: They say, death is harder on the living, but what do you do when you know your end is near? Knowing your diagnosis may not make it easier, so allow yourself some time to grieve. Initially, anger or denial may kick in and it is alright to accept that. Acknowledge your feelings and give yourself time to come to terms with the news.
- Talk and review your life: Doing a life review can help you bring closure. Discuss your dreams and remaining wishes with your family members. Also, discuss your regrets. Involve your family in the process if you feel comfortable about it.
- Spend time with your loved ones: Your time spent with your loved ones will be a legacy for them and something they will remember you by. Do what makes you physically and emotionally comfortable, like walks, watching movies or reading a book with your loved ones. Cherish the time with them.
- Seek counseling: A lot of centers offer to counsel the patient and their family members. You can understand a lot about what to expect in the later stages physically and emotionally and how to cope with the changes. Many people find it comforting to know what to expect.
- Discuss practical matters: Let your loved ones know about your will, bank accounts, etc. Sorting financial matters may seem the last thing you want to deal with right now, but it is an important aspect to handle. Also, some people want to be involved in their funeral process as it allows them some hold on the situation. Let your loved ones know about whom you would like to see in your final weeks and share your wishes with them.
There is no comfort one can offer to the patient or the family members to ease the process. The biggest comfort they can find is in each other and by taking steps to cope with the process.
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