The death of a loved one is so very hard. But sometimes even more difficult is the impending death – waiting and watching – when there is nothing you can do... But there are things you can do – and should do - while you watch your loved one growing weaker, approaching death. In fact, these ending days are opportune times to make preparations – of yourself and your family – for the inevitable. These days are ideal for getting everything in place so that you can truly grieve when your loved one finally passes. Perhaps you will want to meet with family and gather information and stories to write a eulogy. Or, if you’ve already written a eulogy, for rehearsing the funeral speech, perfecting it so you needn’t be stressed in those brief days between death and the funeral or memorial service. Sites such as this one give eulogy examples that might be helpful – or, of course, you can fill out a questionnaire and have The Eulogy Writers compose a beautiful eulogy for you.
We Must Begin by SimplyAccepting the Inevitable: You need to accept the difficult reality that the person you love is dying. In Kubler-Ross’s book on death and dying, she suggests that his is the first stage of grief… accepting the sometimes harsh reality. It is going to happen and it is going to happen soon. Understand their illness or physical injury or the simple wearing out of an aged body is all happening for real. It will be most helpful to state that fact aloud to someone – or even in the privacy of your own space. You may not completely acknowledge the reality until after their death, but facing the facts even now is important. Discussing it with your family members or some medical practitioner will also help you cope withthe fact that it is going to happen soon. Death is a very uncomfortable thought for most people. To live in denial is probably easier, but the realization WILL happen. It is better now, before your loved one dies than after. Think about it. Talk about it. Come to acceptance.
Understanding the Process of Death: Many people think that the process of death takes place over a fairly brief period of time. The fact of the matter is that we are all in the process of dying from the moment of our birth. The final stages, which we call “dying” may be brief, but can often take weeks or months – occasionally even years. The process of natural death is gradual and it involves shutting down of all processes of the body. It can be very uncomfortable for you or the family members to sit by and watch your loved one die slowly. They may discontinue eating, drinking, talking and even, eventually, breathing. Each of these can be disturbing and frightening. Try to stay with your loved one during this last and hardest part of their life. Not being alone is important. Arrange to have other people provide an around the clock attendance in the final time of the loved one. No one wants to die alone (but it is not uncommon for those surrounded by family to wait until everyone leaves the room before they pass).
Ask About any Last Wishes He or She Might Have: This is an important part of the whole process. Although it may seem odd to ask the dying person for their last wishes, it ought to be done. Often people have thought about what they want their memorial or funeral service to be like – what hymns, who should give a eulogy, who should officiate, where it should be held… This is where acceptance comes in handy. You are able to discuss this most ‘unmentionable’ topic of death. If you and your loved one have come to acceptance, you can discusss the end frankly and openly. Make a list of all the things they want to do before their death (if they are able to do anything) and help them do those things. Make another list of things that they want to be done after they die – funeral arrangements, adopting their pet, selling the house…. This way, you will know exactly what the loved one wanted you to do rather than relying on things they implied or didn’t imply over the years.
Give the Most Valuable Part of Yourself - Time: The most valuable gift you can give to a loved one is your presence. A dying person appreciates the presence of their loved ones beside them more than anything else. If you live nearby then you should visit them on a regular basis. But, if you live far from their location, you should visit them from time to time as you can. Also, ask their other close relatives, friends and family members to visit them often. Remind them of the wonderful gift they are… Although Skype, email, text or phone calls are alternate ways, meeting in person has its own significance.
Find Closure: As your loved one approaches death, you should take an opportunity to say the things that you wanted to say but perhaps never had the opportunity or the time never seemed right. Don’t put off any longer expressing your love or concern or feelings. Regret is a very powerful emotion that can last from years to even decades. You should speak gently and say the appropriate things that you need to say. The things that you think would make them feel happy or the things that you think they should know before their death. It does no good to express negative things at this time. Discuss those with your minister or priest. Now is a time for positive, good, comforting words.
Helping Family Members Cope – They Grieve Too: After the loved one has met their imminent fate, you may feel different emotions ranging from sadness to depression. You will not only have to take care of yourself, but you will also have to help the family members cope with the pain of the death of their loved one. You need to be with them, listen to what they have to say about the deceased and their death. Express your sympathy; you can check out our article on "How to Express Your Sympathy to Those Who Grieve." There will be members of the family who will have a hard time coping. They may need extra care in the form of visits or phone calls. You may also need to take care of the family while they are in grief like providing them with meals, taking care of their home or even encouraging them to seek professional help in getting out of the depression and sadness if necessary.
Preparing for The Days After Death
Making Funeral Arrangements: Take those days/weeks/months before your loved one passes away to complete those things many people put off until the death occurs and have that added stress – and have to make quick decisions without proper forethought.
Choose a funeral service provider.
Choose a funeral home or mortuary. You can find a local one by doing an online search or, even better, talk to family and friends to get recommendations as to who they have used and whose services were good. Use caution. There is a tremendous variance in offerings and prices. It is acceptable to call around and get estimates. Ask what their median priced casket costs and, with that casket how much the entire “out the door” price would be. You don’t need to use the cheapest, but try hard not to make emotional decisions here. Your loved one probably doesn’t need the gold-plated coffin… it’s – going – to – be – buried… and he or she really doesn’t care.
Consider cremation. It may be against some people’s religious standards, but if not, it is becoming a very popular choice. ‘Dust to dust’ is pretty much the same as ‘Ashes to ashes.’
Give the information of the deceased to the funeral director. (Name, birth, next of kin etc.) for the obituary to be written. Even this can be done (except for funeral service details) ahead of time.
Write a Eulogy: You will now need to write a eulogy – or someone in the family or among closest friends will. If someone you loved dies and you were close, it is very possible that you will be asked to deliver the memorial speech. And for that, you will need to first write a eulogy in a way that gives a perfect tribute to the deceased. Your funeral speech should let the people know how great a person the deceased was. You will need to include different items in your funeral speech and, via of the internet, you can get a feel for the proper format of a memorial speech at various websites providing eulogy examples. You will need to include things in the funeral speech like their lifetime achievements, your personal memories and things about the deceased that not many people may know. Eulogy examples will help a great deal, but you might also want to see our more in-depth article, titled “How to Write a Eulogy for a Brother or Sister” or you can also see “How to Write a Eulogy for a Parent”. These articles will help you craft a great eulogy.
Once you have completed your funeral speech, you will then need to practice it. You can practice by either speaking in front of a mirror, recording yourself or asking a friend or family member to observe your while you rehearse. The more time you spend audibly going over your tribute speech the better. Knowing it almost by memory will make getting through the emotion of the hour much easier. When you have put in sufficient time and know your speech well enough, you will be ready to deliver the funeral speech perfectly. The major challenge that you can face in times like this is always emotion. You can see our article on “How to Avoid Becoming Emotional When Delivering a Eulogy” to make sure you deliver the funeral speech much easier.
Helping the Family Get Back on Track: After the funeral is over, relatives go back to their lives and friends go back to work and you and other family members of your loved one are left alone. This is when you all need some support. Life has changed and change is best dealt with in the company of loved ones. In the days ahead call, visit, email one another to let one another know you are thinking of them and they are truly not alone. Dealing with the loss of a loved one is not an easy thing but with the help of close friends and family – with a solid support system, all can learn to cope.
A Blessing: As you face the impending loss of someone you love; as you perhaps remember via the writing of a beautiful eulogy or other form of memorial speech; as you support one another, may your spirit be healed.
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