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Blog: On Health. On Writing. On Life. On Everything.

Comfort, Closure, Redemption

March 27, 2012

Tags: order, water, food, herbs, airing the room, chamomile, closure, coconut oil, cook, comfort, Comfort - Closure - Redemption, contraindication, crying, death, declutter, dying alone, faith – articles of, finances, forgiving, fruit, herbal tea, history, hogging, holding hands, holy basil, home, hospice, hospital, listening, nosiness, past hurt, peppermint, photo, possessiveness, praying, reading aloud, redemption, relationship, resilience, singing, sitting still, skin, snooping, stinging nettle, stress, talking, touch, time constraints, washing feet, working out problems

Nobody should die alone. The most important part is that you are with the dying person – the dying person should not be left alone, if possible. Not always is it possible to accompany a loved one on the last way – both my parents died far away from me. My father suddenly, when I was eighteen and away in boarding school – his heart gave out. My mother in Germany, of lung cancer, when I went through the rigors of medical internship in Boston. I remember sitting at night at the bed of a dying patient, and thinking that I should be sitting with my mother.

Many people feel uncomfortable in the face of sickness and dying. Not everybody finds wonderful last words and gestures. Here is what you still can do – naturally – for a dying loved one.

First, however, what you should not do:

• Discuss the ways the person hurt you in the past: It is too late now. Try to grow up before the person dies – work out your own problems
• Go through their things and snoop around. Even if you were the lone heir: Wait until afterward
• Keep friends and relatives away from the dying person to hog her/him for yourself
• Don’t press your personal afterlife believing and articles of faith onto the dying person

What you can do – naturally:

• Sit still at the bedside
• Hold hands: Touch can still be taken in when all the other senses are long gone
• Give a cold sponge bath – lying unwashed in bed is a horrible burden for many sick people
• Sing. I sang for my first, beloved mother-in-law when she was already unconscious. I think she heard me
• Keep the room warm, aired and uncluttered – at home, in the hospital, at the hospice
• Bring pictures from the past that the person might still enjoy – but only a few selected ones – don’t lug into the sickroom whole photo albums
• Forgive if the person was not what you expected from her/him in the past. He/she had her own history – and you might not know all the essential parts – for instance, how this person was hurt when he/she was young
• Remember the past - as long as the person can still talk. This might be your last chance. But don’t push it – take the cue from the dying person, not from your own urgency
• Zip up a light, delicious meal – or just serve fruit. This is not the time to restrict a person to a diet – this is now pure enjoyment
• Read aloud – if he or she can hear it or not: Share what you like to share
• Tell the person what he/she means to you. Sum up your relationship with the dying person – but not financial problems and time constraints the dying puts on you. Your own stresses (and they might be great and overwhelming) you have to work up alone or with other people in your life. Your own life is on hold while this person moves toward death
• Wash the dying person’s feet. Then rub coconut oil into the skin
• Talk about positive things from the past
• Listen to whatever the dying person has to say – if you like it or not
• Pray if the person wants to pray. Shut up if the person does not want to pray
• Declutter the nightstand without getting nosy or possessive
• Brew an herbal tea: Chamomile, holy basil, peppermint, stinging nettle. – or whatever you have at hand Ask the doctor if there are contraindications
• Endure the impending loss – you can – and will - cry later But you will take satisfaction if you stayed strong when you were needed to be strong.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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