By Susan Fraser -August 18,2015
Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things people will have to do in their lives. These ideas help to assist families through the final weeks, prepare for final services, and manage their grief. Preparing to Fulfill a Loved One’s Wishes Death is one of the most difficult subjects to discuss, even among close family members and friends. And yet, this conversation must happen, in order for families to know what a loved one wants to happen after they die. According to The Conversation Project, a program dedicated to helping families start the discussion about end-of-life care, 82 percent of people say that they want to put their wishes in writing, but only 23 percent actually do. This means that in most cases, families rely on what their loved ones said they wanted. Why does this happen? Thinking about one’s own death is troubling, but imagining living without a beloved family member or friend can sometimes be even harder. This underscores the importance of adult children asking their aging parents about their final wishes, and encouraging them to start the process of pre-planning for funeral or memorial services. Opening up the discussion often takes the pressure off the people who are planning for themselves, because they do not have to worry about starting an unhappy conversation or process. It also allows family members to convey their love and respect before it is too late. Understanding the Process of Death While many people think that watching someone die represents a relatively short period of time, it can last weeks or even months. The process of natural death is very gradual, and involves the shutting down of all the body’s processes. It can be very uncomfortable for loved ones to sit by while a person discontinues eating and drinking, talking and even breathing. However, they should remember that natural death is an experience that most people go through, toward an end that everyone must accept. Staying with a person, arranging for various people to provide around-the-clock attendance, as well as palliative or hospice care in the final weeks and months are ways that family members can lower their stress as they wait. Finding Closure As a family member or friend approaches death, those standing by should take an opportunity to say the things they have always wanted to say. Regret is a powerful emotion, one that can last for years or even decades after. As such, people should speak gently but plainly, allowing the dying person to respond in kind. There is no particular form that this conversation should take. If talking about someone’s imminent demise is too frightening or saddening, family members might enjoy simply sharing a favorite memory, or something that they will always remember of their loved ones. Taking Time to Grieve After a loved one dies, people are sometimes unsure how to feel. If the death was a long, lingering affair, they may feel a rush of energy and satisfaction, knowing that the person’s suffering is finally over. The important thing to remember, however, is that everyone grieves in a different way, and that everyone’s expression of sorrow is valid. Decades ago, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote about the five stages of grief that most people go through. However, this experience plays out in many different ways. Some say that grief is like a roller coaster, where the grieving person may feel many conflicting emotions throughout the day, or even at the same time. Giving adequate room for grief is also vital to a person’s well-being. This is something that can be prepared somewhat prior to a loved one’s death. If the dying person is a close family member or friend, those who are grieving may not feel able to go back to work or school right away. They can make arrangements ahead of time so that they do not feel the pressure to ask for accommodations while they are also coping with the loss. Helping Others Cope Grief is a family affair, which means that family members and friends need to come together to share their experience, as a means to help everyone start the healing process. This gives people an important opportunity to see how others are doing. Someone who is having a hard time coping may need extra care, in the form of phone calls or visits, arrangements to care for the home and provide meals, as well as gentle encouragement to seek professional help when necessary. More than anything, the validation of grief and the incentive to talk about it can assist people in getting back to their normal activities. Offering Remembrance After fulfilling a loved one’s final wishes, families want to have a way to properly remember the person’s life and their own profound sense of loss. This can be done in a number of ways, such as a lovely scattering ceremony with an accompanying urn, keepsake jewelry or ornaments, or an engraved urn with a picture. Remembrance is a highly personal concept, and there are many unique or custom options available for families to select. Watching a person die is extremely difficult, but there are ways to make the experience easier. By finding closure, learning and carrying out final wishes, and taking the time to grieve, families can start the healing process.