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Preparing for Your Loved One's Death
Death has been surrounded by folklore and traditions throughout
human history. Every culture has rituals for and beliefs about
preparing for death, death itself, and life after death. Whatís it
really like to die? We donít know. How do you prepare for
that moment? How do you help your loved one prepare? Here are some
--Examine your own beliefs and let your care-receiver talk
about his or hers if your loved one wants to. Maybe the two of
you believe different things about heaven and God. If your loved one
is afraid, offer comfort. If youíre the one whoís uncertain, trust
your care-receiver. This isnít the time to have a theological
argument. Help him or her be at peace with whatís happening.
--Read about death and the dying process. Learn about
what typically happens, step by step, as a person dies. The more you
know, the better prepared you will be.
--Make preparations if you donít live where you parent does.
If Dad is seriously ill, or his health is steadily declining, think
about what needs to be done in order for you to get to him on short
notice. Who can cover for you at work? What arrangements need to be
made for your spouse and kids?
--Ask Mom where she would like to die. At home? At the
hospital? With family at her bedside? With friends nearby? Maybe she
doesnít like hospital room mob scenes and wants the opportunity to
see each of her children privately when sheís near death. You may
need to ask her more than once where she wants to die, because as
time goes by and she gets closer to death, her answer may change.
--Figure out your role. Try to get a mental picture,
based on your loved oneís preferences, of what his or her death will
be like and what your role will be. If it is at home, are you
leading prayers? If it is at the hospital, are you at the bedside?
In the chapel?
--Take care of necessary funeral details ahead of time.
As the time of death approaches, you will want to focus on the
immediate needs of your family.
--Donít wait until the last minute to say good-bye to each
other. Say the words, or the equivalent. It can be tremendously
difficult for family members and a dying loved one to get those
words out. But after your care-receiver has died, it will mean a
great deal to you and other family members if you were able to do
--Help your loved one prepare spiritually. Pray
together. Would he or she like to receive the sacraments of the
Eucharist, reconciliation, and the anointing of the sick, if
--Donít open old wounds. A care-receiverís final days
arenít a good time to rehash old family arguments. If you need to
resolve something between yourself and a parent, spouse, or sibling,
do it before this time comes, when emotions wonít be running as
high. Perhaps you need to resolve a family issue by yourself, on
your own or with the help of a counselor or therapist.
--Let people be themselves. Remember that when a loved
one is dying, family members will show their grief in different
ways. Each may need to cope with it in a different way. One may want
to be quiet and alone, spending time in the hospital chapel. Another
may keep busy handling details that need attending. One may chatter
nonstop. Another may always be demanding the latest update on the
loved oneís condition from the medical staff. Let each person do
what works best for him or her, and you do what works best for you.
--Talk about how precious life is. Just because someone
is bedridden doesnít mean that personís life has no value. Maybe
this is a special time for your loved one to pray. Maybe it is a
time to reminisce with family and friends and say good-bye. Maybe it
is all of those and, above all, a time to prepare for the life that
comes after this life.
Your loved oneís death is an extremely difficult time for you,
but it can also be a very rich time. Up until now youíve been given
the chance to show your dear one how much you love him or her. Now
youíre being given the gift of being with that person as he or she
dies. Youíre being given the opportunity to exchange good-byes.
Youíre being given the blessing of being there as your
responsibility for his or her care ends and our heavenly Father
calls him or her home. Youíll be there with your loved one as our
heavenly parent reaches out to gently lead him or her to eternal
peace, to eternal joy, to eternal life.