Encourage the person warmly to feel as free as possible to

express thoughts, fears, and emotions about dying and death.

This honest and unshrinking baring of emotion is central to

any possible transformation—of coming to terms with life or

dying a good death—and you must allow the person complete

freedom, giving your full permission to say whatever he or

she wants.

When the dying person is finally communicating his or her

most private feelings, do not interrupt, deny, or diminish what

the person is saying. The terminally ill or dying are in the

most vulnerable situation of their lives, and you will need all

your skill and resources of sensitivity, and warmth, and loving

compassion to enable them to reveal themselves. Learn to listen,

and learn to receive in silence: an open, calm silence that

makes the other person feel accepted. Be as relaxed as you

can, be at ease; sit there with your dying friend or relative as

if you had nothing more important or enjoyable to do.

I have found that, as in all grave situations of life, two

things are most useful: a common-sense approach and a sense

of humor. Humor has a marvelous way of lightening the

atmosphere, helping to put the process of dying in its true and

universal perspective, and breaking the over-seriousness and

intensity of the situation. Use humor, then, as skillfully and as

gently as possible.

I have found also, from my own experience, that it is

essential not to take anything too personally. When you least

expect it, dying people can make you the target of all their

anger and blame. As Elisabeth Kübler-Ross says, anger and

blame can "be displaced in all directions, and projected onto

the environment at times almost at random." 1 Do not imagine

that this rage is really aimed at you; realizing what fear and

grief it springs from will stop you from reacting to it in ways

that might damage your relationship.

Sometimes you may be tempted to preach to the dying, or

to give them your own spiritual formula. Avoid this temptation

absolutely, especially when you suspect that it is not

what the dying person wants! No one wishes to be "rescued"

with someone else's beliefs. Remember your task is not to

convert anyone to anything, but to help the person in front of

you get in touch with his or her own strength, confidence,

faith, and spirituality, whatever that might be. Of course, if the

person is really open to spiritual matters, and really wants to

know what you think about them, don't hold back either.

Don't expect too much from yourself, or expect your help

More magazines by this user
Similar magazines