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Chakrasue's picture



what to say when you visit a dying friend

I have a young friend who is not supposed to make it through the weekend...she has been holding on to try and make it for her daughters wedding and birth of her first grand child....what are the right words to let her know that it is okay to let go...she is in sooo much pain

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stillgrowing's picture



Remind her she is loved, and it's okay to let go. Reassure her that her daughter will always carry mom's memory with her, and that she has passed on the best of herself to her daughter. My prayers are with you all.

Pinga's picture



i remember visiting a friend, who was also was close, pain was high. She had always wanted to be a part of a chorus i was a part of, and, many other things, and life was ending way too soon.

As i visited, I ended up singing some of the chants from the chorus. She fell asleep. the singing was able to allow her to escape from the sound of the hospital, and rest. A dear friend of hers arrived, and he motioned me to keep going. As it turns out, she hadn't been able to get rest.

That was the gift our friends gave her, as others relieved me, and helped her rest through the chants .

sometimes, it is not the words, just the company,

Exe's picture



Anytime I have visited folks in the same situation... I have found that letting them know that they were welcome to talk to me about ANYTHING they needed to talk about was ok.

Some needed to talk about their death, some wanted to talk about their funeral, or kids, some wanted to be scared... some wanted to talk spiritual. Some didnt want to talk.

For many, they have a great need to talk. For many of can be difficult to listen to what they want to talk about.

Smote's picture



Singing! What a beautiful thing to do. I wouldn't think to do that as I'm generally afraid to sing but it makes so much sense. Live music always grabs me more than recorded and can transport me somewhere else. Even humming a song in a soothing manner would work if you're shy about doing anything more.

And, if she can bear being touched, the warmth and of your skin holding her hand, touching her arm or stroking her hair would also be very, very soothing and give her an opportunity to relax and let go, even a little bit.

nemesis's picture



Some beautiful suggestions in this thread.

There is a wonderful book by Dr. Robert Buchman - "I Don't Know What to Say".
When my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer it was a tremendous help.

There are times when the most you can do is just sit, be there, and listen.

StephenGordon's picture



Listen. Follow her lead. She might want to look through wedding magazines to push it away, maintain hope, just fill time... She may want to cry...

This is her passing. She is being robbed of time, a wedding, a grandchild, dignity... let her have some control. Let her decide how those final moments, hours, days will be spent... Be there....

Jeffery's picture



Recently, I had two bedroom visits with a woman dying of stomach cancer. I saw three things to be important: i) to tell her that we (my wife, my daughter and sister who she knew well) were all thinking and praying for her and her family; ii) to listen to anything she wanted to talk about and respond when asked; and iii) to offer to do anything to help her or her family (including any prayer requests).

However, the real message of visiting a dying friend is that you are there -- the message is the media -- that you are there in person).

gramps's picture



Great wisdom in some of the above postings. My own? Be there; listening is far more important than talking. What words make death easier? Very few. Being there is companioning.

The most effective visit I ever made was to a dying woman who loved curling. Together we watched a match in the Tournament of Hearts, laughing and cheering for "our" team. She needed someone to share this one more time.

klaatu's picture



I would go with nemisis and StevieG. Don't feel like you have to say or do anything special. Just be there, and go with the flow. Your friend may take the lead, or just be happy to know you are there.

If she does not seem to be conscious, be there anyway.

Blessings on you both.


Mr_Sayers's picture




cjms's picture



Sometimes saying nothing - and just being together holding hands - is the greatest gift to give someone.


abpenny's picture



I'll echo the sentiment of following their lead. I was a Stephen Minister to 2 different women on their deathbeds. One wanted to talk about her life and the other wanted my straight forward opinions about death. My dad just wanted to make me feel better.

I would say, above all else, give them the dignity of your honesty.

cjms's picture



abp wrote: I was a Stephen Minister to 2 different women on their deathbeds.

What is a Stephen Minister? I have never heard of it.


abpenny's picture



My mother was Lutheran and I joined that church for 10 years. Stephen Ministry was a layperson's course in the church...counselling lite, would be my best explanation. I really enjoyed it, even though it was often heartbreaking.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaa's picture



I read all of your suggestions about what to do and thought they were wonderful. I agreed with every one. I went through a similar process with my father. I am sure it helped him and it was also healing for the rest of my family.

I was glad to see also that no one suggested cleaning up all your past sins and preparing to meet your maker.

MonAsksIt's picture



This is so timely and I appreciate the ideas. My uncle has found two spots on his lungs, one too close to the heart to risk radiation so he'll be undergoing chemotherapy. He's in his seventies, has been a heavy smoker (I'm actually amazed something didn't happen sooner), and the relationship has been strained. He's not one to talk much, but I'll do my best to be there to listen. Thanks all!

petros's picture



Chakrasue: you're in a heart-breaking situation--and, I'm sure, you're praying hard for strength to be helpful to your dying friend. You say that, in spite of almost intolerable pain, your friend is holding on to try to make it for a daughter's wedding and the birth of a grandchild. Is this what she herself says to you? Is it maybe your own impression? If the former, it may be, though not necessarily so (and you will have to check with her), a desire on her part to talk with you about her, no doubt, complex feelings about something hard to raise
with her own family and in this way to receive understaning and acceptance for what may not at all be realistic. However, if the sense of trying to hang on is
your impression, still check it out, but only "go there" to the extent your friend is willing. More than any words of yours that it's OK to let go, what your friend needs is you and your total acceptance of her and her thoughts and feeling, including thhose moments where ther may be great anger or a resolve, realistic or not, to fight this travesty of her illness with all her might.

caelie's picture



Sometimes silence is louder than words. the best thing could be just be the company that she needs at this low point. You can talk about the good times that you both have shared. sometimes pictures help. i had an aunt who passed away over a year ago with cancer and we spent many days looking over pictures, remembering the fun we had over the years. I hope that things are going okay with you all. This is a few days after u first posted but i hope that pray that you are all doing fine.

Be Blessed...

Boots's picture



When my grandmother was dying I told her that everything was going to be okay. I told her to go and that God was waiting for her. Not to worry about anything that was happening and that I would look after everything for her. Reminding her that God was waiting for her and that he would look out for her and after her in heaven. It was to my knowlage that my grandfather was abbusive to her and I think that my reassurace that she and everything else on this plane was going to be okay. She was in and out of it for three days before I had this conversation with her. I was told later that she finally took that seat next to our heavenly father seconds after I had left the room.

My brother was married two days after.

roary's picture



I've never been in your situation, but I have had to visit with my sick grandfather. It was hard to watch him in pain but essential that we spend time with him.

What you are going through sounds really tough. I don't have any advice to offer, but you and your friend are in my prayers.

IBelieve's picture




Listening, smiling, touching all with love.. The touch of a loving hand has miraculous emotional healing.

You are loved,

IBelieve's picture




The Stephen Ministry is a care giving non-denominational ministry.

I'm a Stephen Minister and trainer. I have trained Stephen Ministers from here to Florida for over ten years. Spend a lot of time in Hospitals.

It is a very rewarding but scary situation for some. When you truly lean upon God's arms, He takes you through the steps of love for every varying situation.

I have held hands to their last breath and it is such a blessing to watch the peace of the ones that are totally assured of God's welcoming arms.

Be sure to show them God loves them no matter what.

You can read the history of it here:

Be Blessed,

ELIENAI's picture




Trusting the Lord for what you do and say. Pray to Him and ask Him to give you the words.

I can't tell you how many people that I have known for many many years that I have been at their bedside just chatting and listening mostly.

On all occasions the Holy Spirit has led me to ask them if they would like to pray.

Many have never had any idea that I was convicted in my faith and only knew me as a friend. Many of them never went to church and seemed to poo poo faith. Probably why they didn't recognize me with such a strong belief.

It has always amazed me that the ones with little or no faith look at me with the most surprised look when I ask if they want to have a prayer.

There is an instant of silence where I never know what they will say. But they always say yes with such an exciting moment of zest.

I put out my hand for them to hold while I pray and they hang on so tight. I have never had anyone decline and they are so thankful afterward.

I know the enemy will continue to try to put doubt in my mind about asking but he has no power over the Holy Spirit who leads me.

My biggest obstacle is agreeing with the Holy Spirit as I continue to argue with Him daily since I think I know better. My fleshy side!

When I take that step of faith,however, He never lets me down. I always come away like I'm walking on air.

My prayer is usually very simple and short. I ask the Holy Spirit to give me His words instead of mine. The prayers are usually something along the lines of:

"Dear Lord. I thank you for my friend Suzy/George and ask your blessings on them. I thank you for loving us beyond our imagination. Please let us feel your healing hand upon Suzy/George today. We pray this in the name of your loving son Jesus. Amen


RevIan's picture



As one who provides pastoral care in a hospice setting on a regular basis, I am heartened by the content of many of the responses above.

In another Wondercafé thread, I posted the following quote:

"Helping, fixing and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul." (Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, KITCHEN TABLE WISDOM: STORIES THAT HEAL. New York: Riverhead. 1997)

In serving a dying person by accompanying her/him, one offers the most when allowing the dying person to set the agenda. And, sometimes, that may even include having to stifle my desire to pray out loud in the presence of the patient. But, then again, it's not about me ... it's about the dying person.

Tin_Tin's picture



wonderful posts, I have a friend in a similiar situation and these posts have helped me alot.

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