WHAT NOT TO SAY TO A DYING PERSON

So many of you have reached out and ask how to talk to someone who’s dying. You want to know the dos and don’ts when you communicate with friends and loved ones because you’re afraid you’ll make a mistake.  Being present is the biggest DO.  After that, here are a few things to consider…

Do Not:

  • Make it about you.  It is not about your comfort or your experiences.
  • Correct them, instead just listen and go with their thoughts and feelings. There is meaning in everything they say.  When you negate the true feelings of the dying person, you do not allow them to express themselves.
  • Talk low or whisper when you talk. Be normal.
  • Use clichés
    • It’s God’s will…..(This only makes the person feel like it’s their fault)
    • You’ll get through this…(Maybe they aren’t feeling strong and need time to feel scared and vulnerable)
    • You’re not dying…. (They already know they are dying)

DO:

  • Follow their lead.  Do they want to talk about certain fears, talk about dying, or do they want to talk pleasantries to feel normal.
  • Ask questions but don’t steer the conversation. Some questions to ask are: Do you want to say more about that?  What do you think is happening?  When you think about the future what worries you?
  • Be honest but don’t give up hope. For example, if you and a sibling are estranged and your dying parent asks if you have spoken you don’t have to say “It’s never going to happen”.  Try saying something softer, like, “It’s a work in progress”.  That isn’t lying but it fosters some hope.
  • Go with your gut.  Don’t worry about what you think you should do.
  • Touch.  Touch can often be more effective than talk.

The hardest thing, but the best thing to do, for a dying person is give them your time and attention.  Being present and witnessing their hurt and fear allows the dying person to be exactly where they need to be in the moment.  It is the best form of communication you can provide!!

Xo,

Beth