It’s totally normal for someone who is dying to see “others” (many times relatives). They may even talk to them. You may think they’re going crazy, but it’s very common. Sometimes a dying person will say something such as, “Aunt Mildred was here and asked me to go with her….” These experiences happen, as Christine Cowgill told family caregivers on The Unexpected Caregiver Radio Show.
I realize that you may not want to discuss death, but when a loved one is dying, it can be the central theme of one’s days. We just passed Memorial Day—a day we do think about death, and all those who died fighting for our country. We also remember our loved ones who have died. We visit cemeteries and put red geraniums with sprigs of green in pots and set figurines of cats by their gravesite.
“Dying is a life event,” says Christine Cowgill, and that is how I started off our radio show entitled “Soul Service-Caring for our Dying Loved Ones.” It’s important to create a private space for you and your loved one—be aware and express your emotions. Start a conversation with, “Mom it’s really hard for me to talk about this, but I feel we should…and we can stop whenever you or I want.” End of life can be a precious opportunity to push through past misunderstandings. Be gentle. Ask questions for clarification and go slowly. This is also a time to express gratitude.
I followed Christine’s interview with a show entitled “Leaning on a Chaplain,” as they are part of the Holistic Care Team—a term referring to treating the whole person and their family. Holistic care includes the physical needs (such as pain relief), mental needs (making certain that everyone and everything will be okay before one dies), emotional needs (wanting to have people around. Most people don’t want to die alone), and spiritual needs (wanting to embrace one’s personal beliefs, not someone else’s). A chaplain can be that supportive link that helps the whole family through the dying process.
Not only is Holistic Care important, but understanding the difference between Palliative Care (pain control for people living with a chronic illness) and Hospice Care (end of life care, including pain control, having a terminal diagnosis of less than six months to live) is critical. Christine does a great job describing and sharing the history of these in her book, Soul Service.
There is a lot to understand about dying. I encourage you to be brave, find out a little about dying before you are faced with it and have to make legal and financial decisions while riding an emotional roller coaster. Scott Taylor Smith walked listeners through a non-emotional, detailed look at death on “What to do when someone dies.” Combining these three radio interviews could be just the ticket you need to feel prepared rather than caught totally unaware.
With some knowledge under your belt, you can simply be present with the dying person. When they talk about seeing “others” in the room, ask them about their visions. Seeing dead people isn’t always a bad thing. Death is, after all, part of life.