To care is to be present to those who suffer, and to stay present, even when nothing can be done to change their situation. Henri Nouwen
There is a difference between caring for someone as death approaches and caring for someone who is going to get better. Sometimes, being told we can’t be fixed gives us an opportunity to live until we die, but conversations around dying are not based on logic and rationality but rather on hope which can sometimes set us up for defeat and disappointment.
As a carer, we can fluctuate between being quietly supportive and openly pragmatic. We respect that dying is a communal event and we appreciate that education and guidance are key components to building trust with the family in an attempt to alleviate the fear of the unknown.
Practical communication is paramount but equally important is the innate wisdom of the carer – skills that are guided by the heart and simply cannot be taught.
Understanding nonverbal gestures and supporting someone without expectation offers a space of reflection. We each carry our own personal beliefs and experiences about dying and death and this will always influence how we respond to situations.
I can say for sure that my spiritual journey is what directed me to end-of-life work. I could care for others not WITH my beliefs but BECAUSE of my beliefs. They are to get ME through the day and to help ME give the best possible impartial care…
After all, it’s not about us – this work is sacred and as we gently redirect the ‘big’ life questions back to our clients we nurture a sacred connection with genuine awareness and understanding of meeting them where they are.
Many sick and dying people feel they’ve become nothing but a burden to their families and have nothing more to give. They avoid the present moment at all costs because they are swept up in a culture that equates a successful life to being constantly busy and in control.
Optimizing and achieving is no longer an option but it is all they know so it’s no surprise that slowing down creates fear and anxiety. Consequently, social interactions are less important, the focus is turned inward and the gap between the physical and non-physical starts to collapse.
Seeing their situation for what it is and allowing them to just be, is the greatest gift we can give them. A conscious carer has the emotional capacity to hold a safe space anchored in love and support to usher in the dawn of a new beginning…
Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.
— Lucius Annaeus Seneca