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?