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what to say

What To Say When A Loved One Is Dying

If you have a friend or family member who is terminally ill or nearing death, it can be difficult to know what to do or say. Acting as if it’s not happening can sometimes help both of you deal with the situation, but it’s also important to be in tune with your emotions and not pass up opportunities to talk openly. What you say when a loved one is dying can either help or hurt the situation. Here’s how to remain respectful and compassionate.  

Keep a Positive Attitude  

No one wants to lose a loved one. Going through this emotional time can send even the most graceful soul into a tailspin. When you’re spending time with your loved one, keep a positive attitude. It will not only help you, but also everyone around you. Positivity is contagious and can help brighten anyone’s mental state. If you or your loved one experiences anger or frustration, know that it’s normal. Leave the room if you have to and return with a calm demeanor.

Notice the Small Things

A friendly greeting like “How are you doing today?” can speak volumes. If you aren’t sure what to say when spending time with your loved one, notice things around you.

  • “It’s such a beautiful day, look at those clouds!”
  • “This blanket is so soft, you must be very cozy.”
  • “I’m making us something delicious for lunch today.”

Speak how you normally would and don’t overdo it with your tone, otherwise it will seem like you’re trying too hard. When embraced casually, this type of approach can lead to a fresh conversation. It will also help your loved one redirect their thoughts to these kinds of simple joys.

Talk About Yourself

This type of conversation tactic is normally avoided as to not seem self-centered, but in this case it works by helping your loved one feel as close to normal as possible. Talk about things you normally would, like your job, what you did last weekend or what you and a friend are going to do tomorrow. Normal conversations about everyday things might not seem like they mean much, but they can be a nice mental break for a terminally ill patient.  

Let Your Loved One Lead

It’s normal to want to talk about your loved one’s condition and ask questions, but they might not want to. Pick up on cues from them. If they bring up their treatment or condition, you’re welcome to talk about it. Even if you mean well, avoid saying things like “I know how you feel” or “I understand.” Instead, say something like “This must be so hard” or “I’m so impressed with your resilience.”  

Proceed as Normal

Be mindful that you don’t start excluding your family member or friend from normal activities or conversations. They are still the same person and should be treated as such. If you normally would invite them to a weekly group lunch, keep inviting them. Don’t preface the invite with anything new. Simply say, “Would you like to join this week?” and let them decide if they’re up for it.

These are just some of the things you can say when a loved one is dying. Overall, it’s important to continue to be yourself and seek help when needed. For more information about the different types of services offered at Santé, please call 480.264.4568 or contact us online.

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