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Reducing fear around death for loved ones

Family members experience many emotions when a loved one dies. How can we prepare people for what they will experience?

Photo of Emily Keller-Logan
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My grandfather passed away right before I started my first job out of college. Since I had flexibility in my travel and schedule, I was able to be with him and my family during his last days.

I remember the weight of all of the emotions that we had. My parents, aunts and uncles, and my grandmother. Each of us were trying to process what was about to happen in our own way. Some of us had lived through other deaths of friends and loved ones, and others, like me, were experiencing this for the the first time. 

Ultimately, my grandfather was taken to hospice for the final days of his life, to try in some way to bring his failing body comfort. None of us really knew what to do. As he began to fade he was quite agitated, and it was clear that there was pain. Of course, as a family member, the first instinct is to reach out to touch and sooth. And to sing, to speak. We were told that touch makes it harder for the individual to stop fighting, and ultimately give in to death. 

I remember looking around the room, do we? Don't we? There were feelings of helplessness, sadness, confusion. For me, and also for others in my family who had experienced death in varying ways before.

Saying goodbye to a loved one is never easy but in what ways can we support families in knowing how to cope with the process of saying goodbye, and how to provide a peaceful transition for their loved one?

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Can we create awareness about the stages of death- what to expect, what creates a peaceful transition? It's often something that's not talked about but perhaps stories can provide an education on something that seems so shrouded and dismal.

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Photo of Aaron Wong

Thank you for sharing your story Emily Keller-Logan , and I think you touched on a really good subject in the matter of the end of life experience - emotions. You also raise a really good question, how can we create a peaceful transition? How do emotions affect our decision-making? When is it a good time to talk about death and with who? 

@Hattie Bryant
 also shared a very personal story about death in her family and her family's reaction in It's an inside job. It's personal.  An advocate may help make end of life decisions, but what about emotional support? Can one person do it all? How can mental health addressed?

Photo of Emily Keller-Logan

Oh the idea of an advocate or proxy is very interesting. Thanks for making that connection @Aaron Wong! It seems like close family or friends can provide more of the emotional support but an advocate like Hattie Bryant discusses could be more of a neutral party who can help make clear recommendations and decisions.