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What To Do When Someone Is Dying

What do I say? How do I help? What do they need? Here are six rules to follow.

What To Do When Someone Is Dying
Reader's Digest

Sharing the last days and moments of someone you love can be confronting and scary, but also fulfilling and healing. Experts in end-of-life care share their advice on how to support loved ones on their final journey.

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1. Keep it real

People who are dying are mourning – the loss of their future, their sense of purpose and their relationships. “They experience an extreme sense of loss and aloneness,” says Leanne Skipsey, an expert in Death Literacy, who runs discussion groups for people to meet and talk about dying and death.

The dying person is integrating a whirlpool of emotions; you can offer support simply by being present and listening. If the person has a long illness, they may move from feelings of hope for a recovery through to acceptance. The best approach is to be open, honest and authentic, Skipsey says. “Sometimes the dying person is the only one who’s honest about the fact they are dying, and everyone else isn’t ready to come to that realisation. It’s really refreshing for a person who is dying to have people around who are able to be real with them.”

Suggested words:

  • “I don’t know what to say.”
  • “I’m deeply saddened about your situation.”
  • “I love you and I am here for you.”
  • “I’ll do what I can to help you to be comfortable and not suffer.”


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