Emotions While Serving the Dying

emotions while serving the dying

On our last webinar, February 11, we answered the following question: What is the best way to “keep it together” while serving a dying person? How do you not let your emotions get in the way?

Answer: You don’t necessarily need to “keep it together” at all. Please realize that both you and the dying person are going through a profound process, and a lot of feelings are likely to arise, especially if you are a close friend or family member.
It may be useful to inform yourself about the stages of dying, (that is, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) which were briefly discussed during our second webinar, and are described in much greater detail in Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ book On Death and Dying and other texts. Both the dying person and the caregiver (if emotionally close to the dying person) will go through these stages. But communication problems may arise if you and the dying person are at different stages, and so it is important that each of you understand the stage that each of you are in. For example, the dying person may have reached the stage of acceptance, but you may still be depressed or angry. You can easily see how this might complicate your communications.
It would be good, therefore, if you can talk to the dying person about how you feel.  It would also good to share your feelings with other people who can help you process those feelings. In any case, please try to stay in your feelings, whatever they are, because that will encourage the dying person to express whatever he or she is feeling, as well. The person is not likely to do that if you are both being superficial. For example, your crying in the presence of the dying person may encourage them to have a much-needed cry as well.
Always try to be a presence that helps the dying person to feel completely safe to be him or herself in the moment. Before you begin serving such a person, try to spend a little time doing your own spiritual practice, such as prayer or meditation or study of spiritual texts, or invoking whatever being or philosophy whose sacred power you believe in. This will help you to remain compassionate and authentic in your service to the dying person. Your prayer and invocation may even transform the atmosphere such that you and others present become inspired, not fearful or depressed, by the mystery of the dying process.

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