Knowing what to say to someone who is dying or someone who has received a terminal diagnosis is difficult. You might say the wrong thing and make the person uncomfortable. Engaging in worthless small talk should be avoided. Instead you must focus on the person’s needs and feelings.
Things to Remember When Speaking to Someone Who is Dying
- Even if you feel uncomfortable, your loved one still needs you
- It’s okay to talk about end-of-life plans
- Take the time to listen to the person dying
- Say things openly so there are no regrets in the end
Tips on What to Say to Someone Who is Terminal
Reaching the end of life is hard for the person dying and for those around them. You might feel at a loss and unsure of how to talk to the person. In this article, you will learn tips that can help you know what to say to someone who is dying.
1. Let the Dying Person Talk
Everyone handles death differently. For some, they will openly talk about the end. However, others avoid talking about death because they are afraid, or they feel like admitting that they are dying is like giving up. In some cases, the dying person might abstain from talking to you for fear of upsetting you.
2. Ask Questions to Start a Conversation
Sometimes, when a terminal person starts to talk, they might pause midway through the conversation. It’s as if they are testing the waters to see your reaction. It is beneficial to ask them questions to encourage the conversation, so it doesn’t pause. Often this is the dying individual’s way of opening up and talking. All they need is a little encouragement from you.
3. Request and Give Forgiveness
If there have been problems, then it is time to request or offer forgiveness. In order to offer closure during the end of life then forgiveness must be offered. Also, if you wish to be forgiven for something, do not hesitate to ask for it.
4. The Importance of Saying “I Love You”
These three simple words can be the most impactful thing you can say to someone that is dying. Many people simply don’t say them enough or at all. When someone that you care about is dying then you should say “I love you” at least once, if not more. If you don’t say these words and the person dies, then you might feel regret for not expressing yourself while you had the opportunity.
5. Offer Future Reassurance
Dying people often worry about their loved ones, especially their spouse or children. It is imperative that you offer reassurance that you and others will be fine after they are gone.
6. Talk About After Death Preparation
Most dying people want to sit down with their loved ones and discuss death preparations. It’s never easy to find out whether your loved one wants to be buried or cremated. In some cases, they may have very specific requirements such as a green burial.
The dying person might even have an idea of what clothes they want to wear, the type of service, location of the service and burial, and even a headstone or urn that they find especially appealing.
7. Always Express Thanks
Some people never get around to saying thank you to a loved one. However, saying thanks is a simple act that can bring great relief and prevent future feelings of guilt. Thank the person for sharing their life with you or for all the things they have done. If it is a friend, then thank them for their friendship.
8. Share Memories Together
When a person is dying there is not much time to look ahead, so it’s time to remember the good times together. Sharing memories often brings tears, laughter, and great feelings of love.
How to Say Goodbye
The word, ‘goodbye’ is hard for many people to say to a loved one because it is very final. It is something many people just cannot bring themselves to say. Those with faith and a belief in the afterlife often proclaim, “Until We Meet Again.”
Providing a future belief that you will see each other again offers the dying person solace. However, goodbyes play a big role in both people receiving closure. You never know if you will see the person again when they are terminal. You might be wanting to say that you will see them later, but then if they die, you will feel heartbroken that you didn’t say goodbye.
If you must leave for a long time and you know that you will probably not see the person again then the goodbye might be very emotional, but you must say what needs to be said. Always let the person know exactly how much they mean to you. Without a doubt, saying goodbye prevents future regrets.
Offer the Gift of Touch
Often in the final hours or moments of a person’s life words are no longer required. Instead you can offer the gift of touch. Hold the persons hand, stroke their head, or simply lay a hand on their shoulder to let them know that you are with them till the end.
The physical act of touch will tell the person that they are not alone. Many children and spouses choose to lay in bed beside the dying person and hold them as they pass on. If the person has slipped into a coma then you might want to continue talking softly. Even if they do not respond, they probably hear your voice and it provides comfort. A dying person can sense your presence and it will help them through the final transition.
Common Questions About What to Say to Someone Who is Dying
Here are several common questions about what to say to someone who is coping with a terminal diagnosis.
Q: Isn’t it better to reassure a person that they are going to be okay?
A person who is terminal knows that they do not have long to live. They do not want you to lie to them and tell them everything is going to be okay when it’s not. Instead they want to cope with the process of dying and go through the necessary stages to help them face what lies ahead.
Q: Why doesn’t the dying person want to talk?
During the final stage of life, the dying person often withdraws from things they once found pleasurable and falls silent. They might sleep more than normal. Usually, within hours of death, the person becomes unresponsive to voices.
Q: Do you have to let the person go?
When a person is dying, their children or spouse may try to hold on to their loved one and may even refuse to let go. This makes it difficult for the dying person and can even lead to then enduring extended suffering. In order to avoid any further pain you may need to let the person go so they can make the final transition.
Q: Should you ask the dying person how they are feeling?
You should avoid asking a dying person how they are feeling. People who are dying are not physically well and might be suffering pain or other problems. Asking them how they feel means that they must talk about their illness and ultimate demise.
Q: Why not offer hope?
Offering false hope just makes the person feel uncomfortable. They know that they are dying, and they do not want to hear that they will feel better soon or be up out of bed in no time. These things only depress them further.
Coping with the end of life is traumatic and difficult. Knowing what to say to someone who is dying is imperative. You want to help the person you care about so that the death process is easier.
Never leave things unsaid and don’t be afraid to talk about what is happening. Usually open conversations are welcome by the terminal individual.