*The following is from Cancer Council, Victoria
When you don't know what to say
People often wonder what they should say to a person who is dying.
It’s understandable that you don’t know what to say – what you feel might be so complex that it’s hard to find the right words, or any words at all.
It is common to worry about saying the wrong thing. Most times, the person who is dying will find comfort in you just being there.
Providing Comfort at the End-of-Life
What is End-of-Life comfort care?
Talking beforehand with an individual that can guide you and your loved one is helpful. However, if you are unable to do so, here are a few things to consider when an individual is dying:
What is End-of-Life (EOL) Care?
This is the support and medical care given as one is dying.
There are many decisions to be made beforehand, so if you are able, please begin having conversations with loved ones about your wishes at EOL.
Remember that dying is more than just physical. It involves emotional and spiritual aspects as well.
Pain, Breathing, Fatigue etc.
Mental and Emotional Needs:
Anxiety, depression, confusion, involvement
Some individuals may rely on faith, others may pull back from faith.
With each of these needs, involve the dying as much as you can, speak kindly and make no corrections and be emotionally and spiritually present for your loved one, so as to be able to best support them.
Please don't forget about the caregivers as well. Here are some questions you might ask those that are supporting the dying:
The dying process can be unsettling, especially when we are not comfortable, or unfamiliar, with the experience.
When we learn more about death, dying and grief, we are able to be present for the dying individual. We can bring love and comfort, while meeting the needs of the dying.
The attached article share that dying is normal stage of life, and understanding there can be various emotional and mental needs of the dying, such as:
Mood swings - the dying may have personality swings.
Anxiety - this may be due to unresolved issues with others, fear of death or leaving loved ones.
Confusion - as the physical body declines, this may add to confusion. Being kind with your words is always comforting.
Visions - dying often have "deathbed visions". These may cause discomfort for the loved ones witnessing. Please do not be alarmed or try to correct the dying. These visions do play an important role and often bring comfort to the individual.
Working with a death doula before hand may help ease some of these symptoms, in additions to speaking with medical staff or hospice support may be helpful for a greater understanding for all involved.
Life if full of:
Cycles and rhythms.
Day to night. Cold to hot. Light to dark.
Ever changing, even if we are not aware.
Our emotional cycles and rhythms also:
Ebb and flow.
Morph from happy to sad, stressed to relax.
Our physical bodies are cycles and rhythms that:
Birth - youth - adult - seniors, if we are lucky to have this long of a life span.
Life, dying and death have rhythms and cycles that:
Changes in emotions, physical and spiritual parts of our beings.
Each season and each phase of life brings us wisdom.
Tapping into this understanding allows us to honor and to see the gifts.
Connect, breathe, nourish and be true to yourself = these helps us to honor all cycles and rhythms of life and death.
How to Bring More Meaning to Dying
Death is not optional.
However, we can learn more about death and dying to become more comfortable and more aligned with the needs of the dying....we just need to learn how.
Dying is more than just physical - it's also spiritual and emotional. Understanding, on a deeper level, all of the needs of the dying, can help us to be more emotionally present for these life-altering events.
BJ Miller and Shoshana Berger share a few ideas in their book "A Beginners Guide to the End", such as:
Don't leave a mess - lighten the load on your family members, and try to purge.
Clean out your emotional attic - if you do not want personal things to be exposed after your death, please be aware to not leave "emotional bombs" for families to discover secrets.
Mend important relationships - don't leave any regrets with relationships. A Necessary Conversation recommends Repair, Release, Reconnect so you and your loved ones don't have any Regrets.
The winter solstice which occurs on December 21, 2022 is the moment the "Sun is born again".
Since the summer solstice in June of this year, the days have been getting shorter, while the nights have been getting longer, representing the decline of the sun.
However, on 12/21/22, the sun will enter a new cycle of life, and the sun will be born again, by slowly, each day, increasing until it peaks again on 6/21/23.
This cycle, which continues yearly, represents that beginning and the end of light and dark. These two entities morph into each other, going around, and around, year after year.
The spiritual meaning of the winter solstice represents new beginnings, a birth, which is an opportunity to be hopeful for the new experiences for the new year.
Take the time this December to absorb the past year's experiences - which people and events have molded you, what do you wish you could have done differently and how can you implement positive changes that align to your essence?
Rest, reflect, repurpose your soul.
December - Spiritual Literacy Month
Every December, since 1996, Spiritual Literacy Month has been observed. However, many of us have never heard of it and don't know what it means.
The purpose of Spiritual Literacy Month is to us to read at least one book on spirituality. The goal is to broaden the mind, deepen the connection to spirituality, religion or faith, and to gain wisdom from the worlds great religions and practices so that we can become a more spiritually literate society.
Challenge yourself by learning more about other faiths, become more open minded to be able to see the true connection between all religious or spiritual practices (LOVE and PEACE).
Ignite your soul - seek to learn more - understand what resonates with you and your loved ones, be kind and considerate, and truly understand that what most of us on earth just want to give and receive kindness and love.
Go within, respect all beliefs and traditions and enter the new year with wanting to reunite with what brings you solace.
Share it on social media. Be sure to use #SpiritualLiteracyMonth or #SpiritualLiteracy
Loss Doesn't Need to Be Feared
Grief is an unknown and often feared emotion.
We, as a society, do not openly speak of grief experiences, and therefore, a lot of us are left dreading this natural emotion to a loss or a death, because we are unfamiliar with it.
People often think that grief is something to get through, get over and place in a safe place that is tucked away, hoping not be brought back out to the light.
However, grief does not work this way. Grief, like life and death, are a part of our human fabric. When we love someone or something and it is no longer a part of our life, we grieve.
Grief connects us to our humanity and to our loss. Feeling, and expressing (in ways that are not harmful to ourselves or others) is powerful.
Learning tools that engage us to go deep within our souls brings us new possibilities of learning to live life, remain connected to our loved ones and to walk forward with light and love.
The 10 Best and 10 Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief
The following is taken directly from David Kesslers, *Grief.com,
See listing for Peer to Peer Grief Educator
Many of us have said “The Best” and “The Worst.”
We meant no harm, in fact, the opposite. We were trying to comfort.
A grieving person may say one of the worst ones about themselves and it’s OK. It may make sense for a member of the clergy to say, “He is in a better place” when someone comes to them for guidance. Whereas an acquaintance saying it may not feel good.
You would also not want to say to someone, you are in the stages of grief. In our work, On Grief and Grieving, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and I share that the stages were never meant to tuck messy emotions into neat packages. While some of these things to say have been helpful to some people, the way in which they are often said has the exact opposite effect than what was originally intended.
The Best Things to Say to Someone in Grief
1. I am so sorry for your loss.
2. I wish I had the right words, just know I care.
3. I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in any way I can.
4. You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.
5. My favorite memory of your loved one is…
6. I am always just a phone call away
7. Give a hug instead of saying something
8. We all need help at times like this, I am here for you
9. I am usually up early or late, if you need anything
10. Saying nothing, just be with the person
The Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief
1. At least she lived a long life, many people die young
2. He is in a better place
3. She brought this on herself
4. There is a reason for everything
5. Aren’t you over him yet, he has been dead for awhile now
6. You can have another child still
7. She was such a good person God wanted her to be with him
8. I know how you feel
9. She did what she came here to do and it was her time to go
10. Be strong
How to make room for grief and sadness during the holidays ~
Don't be afraid to say "their name", and say it often.
No one wants to feel as if their loved one is forgotten or avoided, especially during the holidays.
A seat at the table.
Acknowledging the symbolism of the empty chair helps to remind loved ones that their person's memory is still recognized.
Share photos or videos.
Visual reminders prompt us to feel the emotions, going deep into our feelings, while sharing them with open-hearted people.
Serve their favorite dish.
Share what they loved about this particular food and why they enjoyed it.
Light candles in their honor.
Creating a quiet, and reflective, space where everyone can go to be present with the emotions.
Go to nature.
Nature is a natural way to connect with thoughts and feelings, while opening the heart space that honor the journey.
Ways to Support a Griever
We don't like to speak about grief. It makes us uncomfortable.
Some think it's being a Debbie Downer, and avoid being around "it".
Grief is all around us.....and yet we are not given lessons on how to support anyone that is mourning.
The following article gives many ways to support a griever, from the early days and after some time has passed.
Acknowledge the grief and their loved one, even if you are uncomfortable. Let them know you see them, and if you are able, let them know you will walk along side them on their journey.
Dogs are amazing animals.
They intuitively know how and when to love and comfort. They seem to have an innate ability to sense other people's emotions.
There have been numerous studies and research done on the power the dogs can bring to our homes, and the impact they make on human life.
Dogs are intuitive, as they often sense things even before we humans can, and they are definitely able to sense grief.
Throughout my life, my dogs have given me so much comfort, just by being present, quietly sitting beside me or wanting a simple rub on the belly. For a few moments, Im taken out of myself, and into the genteel world of 4-legged companionship.
What stories can you share about how your dogs have offered solace in grief?
Mustering the Courage to Mourn
We live in a society that pushes the idea of the pursuit of happiness. It is reflected that to be happy is the purpose of life. Is it?
To be a human being, to experience life, both good and bad, to feel emotions of joy and sadness, is all part of the spectrum of living life.
To grieve is not something to be ashamed of, but something to have the courage to feel and express.
Surrounding yourself with people that can create the space for your emotions, not trying to "bright side" your grief, allows for honest conversations that make room for healing.
Grief is unique, there is no one way to experience it, it is not linear, and it doesn't have a time limit. However, when we invited grief in, when we are open with our emotions, we tend to learn to bring grief along, because whether we want it or not, grief will eventually show up.
The following articles talks about taking grief's hand and befriending courage. Both of these actions require a willingness to do grief differently, and not the way our society has told us we "should" do it.
When we open ourselves up to all the emotions of grief, find safe people to share it with, we know that we are not alone, and that we can lean into the community of support.
Grief - the uninvited guest. It comes when you don't plan for it, you are never quite sure how long it will stay, and you certainly don't know how it will manifest in your emotions.
Grief does not take holidays off. In fact, it can show up even bolder than a regular Tuesday afternoon, when you might be alone, and feel free to feel all of the emotions.
Nope! It comes when it wants to, which makes it very hard to plan keeping feelings contained.
However, what might happen if grief was invited in, attended to and witnessed? Would it feel too vulnerable and perhaps too uncomfortable?
Courage - being afraid, but walking through the fear anyone.
Could you be more strong than you think?
Could you feel all of the emotions of grief, and still be heartbroken, yet slowly witnessing the pain to walk through the grief?
Honoring and witnessing the grief and finding the right support, slowly gives you the courage to invite grief in, not keeping it out, all the while creating a safe place to for open and honest sharing of emotions, which help to lead to healing.
There are a lot of people suffering this holiday season, and it is important to be aware that not everyone is grateful.
As we often say to those that are grieving, "our thoughts and prayers are with you", these words can seem hollow. However, at least people are are acknowledging the pain and suffering of others.
We can go a bit further.....we can become grief educated. We can learn more about how grief -
Has no time limits
Isn't the same for everyone
Affects everyone different, and that's ok
Grief gets to be witnessed and honored, just like the lives of the people that use to sit in the now empty chairs.
Another year, another Thanksgiving. Same holiday, different year. Has your life changed since last year? Have you experienced a death or a major life loss? Are you experiencing sadness and/or grief?
Although this time of year is about being with loved ones and expressing love and gratitude, for some it may be filled with heartbreak and sadness.
It's important to be aware of those that are in pain, and to ask them how they are doing "today", and just listen, don't fix or make it better.
With grief, everything has changed......life feels uncomfortably different. Some may feel a void, others may feel relief that a loved one is no longer in pain. Either emotion is valid, and normal. There is no need to pretend, and if need be, make and honor different plans this year. Allow yourself the time, and space, to feel. You do not need to make decisions that do not feel aligned with your truth, as you get to navigate this journey because it is your journey, and no one two grief journey's are the same.
If you want, gather people that can support your grief, that create a safe haven for it, so that you can honor you and your loved one without judgement.
Grief is not only emotional, but it is also manifests itself as physical and spiritual fatigue. Understanding the fragility of grief, allows the space for self care and self repair.
Never underestimate the power of tears. A good cry can really soften the soul to let other emotions in. Crying is powerful, and needed to release our innermost feelings. Tears can be of relief, sadness, anxiety, hope, relief.....just to name a few.
Talking about your loved one helps, even though at times, you may become sad again. Saying your loved one names help to keep them in your world, and is a way to stay connected. Just because a loved one dies, it doesn't mean that your love dies.
Read the article to learn more tools.....
Thanksgiving - the season of "mandated joy".
When a loved one has died, is dying, is in ill-health, estranged or living elsewhere, Thanksgiving can bring sadness.
When feeling emotions other than gratitude and thankfulness, it is easy to feel alienated from others and this time of year.
We live in a society that is focused on being "blessed and joyful", but this is not the reality of life.
Life is both happy/sad, easy/difficult, joy/grief.
To speak about emotions, is hard.
Not everyone wants to hear about true feelings.
Sitting with the duality of feelings is uncomfortable.
Very few can witness and be with another grief/sadness.
Remember that it is ok to -
Honor your emotions
Not want to celebrate the holiday
Be open, and honest, about how you feel
Set boundaries with others about what you can do/not do
To take care of yourself this Thanksgiving -
Create new traditions
Share emotions with kids/grandkids
Embrace the duality of emotions that appear
Not over-schedule yourself into false happiness
If you attend Thanksgiving, have a game plan and exit strategy
Grief is a natural, and normal, emotion.
There is no right or wrong way to experience it.
It has no clear direction, nor an ending point.
It deserves to be honored, by you.
The "turkey in the room" for Thanksgiving.......just like the elephant in the room.....is GRIEF.
Grief is hard, and when you add in a holiday, it can be more difficult.
Thanksgiving, the time of year when we are expected to focus on gratitude and thanks. For those grieving, gratitude is usually not an emotion that is felt.
Grief brings a myriad of emotions, and often grievers can feel conflicting emotions, which can bring unease and alienation from those experiencing gratitude and thankfulness during this season.
However, when we can be honest with ourselves, and with people that can "be" with our grief, we can feel a sense of community, and not feel guilt over the emotions we are experiencing.
The gift you can give yourself, or to those that are grieving, is to give the space to express emotions, not wanting to make it better, or to bright side the situation, but to witness and honor the journey of grief.
Wisdom of the Fall
Seasonal changes - some people are excited for them, others not so much.
Fall - representing the time of year when the nights are longer, days are cooler, nature is slowing down, and soon comes winter.
Fall can affect the mind - some cherish the stillness and others resist the change.
Fall can remind us of impermanence - where leaves change colors and eventually fall, leaving trees and bushes bare. Yet there is beauty, and wisdom.
The wisdom of fall is that it is a visual reminder that life is constantly changing, it never stays the same. It, like life, has stages, phases.
Autumn reminds us through the shorter days and longer nights to find comfort amongst the solitude. This space allows for awareness and openness.
With all the changes that occur in nature it is a reminder for us to understand what is important in our life, and what we get to let go. What brings us purpose and contentment and what brings us discourse and unhappiness. What feeds our souls and what detracts from our truth.
The wisdom of the fall is that we can find gratitude to bend with the seasons and to remain steady within the change.
Autumn - The Spiritual Harvest
To reap and to sow.
During harvest, one gathers crops (reap) and then plants seeds to grow (sow).
In the spiritual sense, during our harvest (in life and in dying), what we reap, is what we sow. Another way to say this could be karma.
How aware are you of your actions and interactions with others on a daily basis? Not just in the big events in life, but also in the mundane every day of life?
What kind of self discovery would appear?
What insightful and deep nuggets would we find?
What would it look like to participate in a spiritual harvest?
What would come to the surface when we excavate past events?
What would become glaring on how we interacted with people?
Would we find compassion, kindness and love?
Would we discover actions and behaviors we wish to look away from?
A spiritual harvest allows us to see what we sow by ~
Discovering parts of us that are balanced.
Letting go of parts that do not serve our essence.
A spiritual harvest brings back to us what we reaped by ~
Being conscious of our actions.
Treating others in ways that brings respect.
Understanding that our behavior reflects whom we are as humans.
Take the time this fall to rediscover your truth, align your values to your essence and partake in a spiritual harvest so that you can sow and reap what is important to you.
Autumn Is Both Life and Death
Autumn and Spring.
Winter and Summer.
These are 4 differing seasons that make up an entire year.
Birth and Death.
Living and Dying.
These are 4 different stages that make up a person entire life.
Some sees all of these as opposites, yet aren't they truly just part of a whole?
Now, autumn is here - the leaves are changing colors and beginning to fall. We see the majesty of nature - slowing down, withering and going within.
Can we say the same thing about dying and death? When our loved one is nearing their end of life, dying, they begin to go within. Their bodies, and life cycles, slow down, the internal systems tend to shift and change, all of which gives us an indication that time is changing and will enter a new passage of time.
And yet after a death, a birth or rebirth can occur. We see life eventually expanding again and we see seeds of new awareness enriching our lives. The ability to see just how impermanent life is and why we get to try to stay present, to be alive and live with purpose.
"To live is to die, and to die is to live and it's the great paradox of autumn that it is so beautiful, and yet everything is dying".
Shakespeare writes ~
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
Recognize the beauty autumn brings in both life and in death.
Autumn Equinox Rituals
The autumn equinox symbolizes the first days of fall, usually lasts only 12 hours, and it occurs usually during the 3rd week of September.
Spiritually, the autumn equinox is the practice of gratitude for the year (the harvest) and the clearing of space for an evolving new beginnings and growth.
Each season of our lives brings enlightenment and fall is not exception. Fall represents changes in nature and in our souls. When we realign with activities and people that add meaning, we get to grow spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
Slowing down, rebalancing and rejuvenation are all benefits of autumn equinox rituals, which allows each of us to go within and recenter.
Most people I know seem to be on a spiritual or a religious path, in which they dig deep to find meaning in their lives. The same thing happens when one is nearing the end of life, or after a person has died. We go within, we seek purpose so that we can remain connected to people and events that are important in our lives.
Cultivating autumn rituals help us to connect to our core values and to the essence of whom we are as humans, a framework to our inner beings.
Find an autumn ritual that you can continue to grow, so that you can nourish the seasons of change.
Light a cancel and focus on the flame to calm the mind.
Discover what is in balance, and what is out of balance in your life.
Ask yourself what you need to bring more into your life, and what you need to let go in your life.
Attend to nature and pay attention to what is happening in the trees and animals.
See the connection of the fall to our spirits, and understand the deep alliance it has to life, and lean into the shifting passage of time.
Seek silence, embrace and trust what comes to you in the varying rituals.
Creating Space for What You Love
Designating time to go within and to seek what brings you meaning, is an important avenue for self care, which is really, self repair.
Our life, like seasons, have purpose, and when we take the time to recognize the need for space, we can become even more mindful of what is important to us.
Our lives - which include not only the physical, but the mental and spiritual make up our essence. What we focus on, where we place our valuable time and with whom we spend our precious commodity with - all create whom we are and what is important to us.
At the end of life, life becomes really simple. There is not a great need for more stuff, more money or more prestige. There is, however, plenty of room for love, serenity and compassion.
The more we can focus, now, on what brings value to our lives, the more we can live with fewer regrets. We seek with purpose and we receive plenty of gratitude.
Space can help us to slow down, reevaluate and realign with what, and whom, matters most. Introspection helps us to identify what, in our life, needs cleaning up, keeping or discarding.
Here are a few ways to create space, so that your soul can open up ~
Declutter - not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually.
Making space for people/events that bring joy, not obligations.
Gratitude - a healthy, and daily dose, of what we are grateful for.
Release yourself from thinking you know best and keep an open mind.
Reaffirm to yourself, that autumn brings the much needed space for stillness, to go within, refocus and recenter.
Autumn - Reflect & Prepare
Most of us, depending on where we are in the world, are stepping away from the long and hot summer days and are entering the shorter and cooler days ahead.
Fall is the time of year, where we again see changes in our surroundings, attuning ourselves not only to the changes of nature, but also to progression of our lives.
Shorter days give us the opportunities to go within, reflect with our past and perhaps to prepare for our future - gaining a better understanding of what our true essence is and how to incorporate a way of living to achieve it.
At the end of ones life people often become very reflective and seek to find meaning in past events. Let's not wait until we, or our loved ones, are approaching end-of-life.
Let's get proactive, NOW, and start taking time to prepare by ~
Looking at what matters most and realign your values to what you chose to bring into your life.
Get centered. Go within. Connect to your roots, Nourish your soil. NOW.
What is Hygge?
Hygge - pronounced hue-gah is "a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being" (which is a defining characteristic of Danish culture).
Hygge is a Norwegian word and it translates loosely as well-being and as " the quality of being warm and comfortable that gives a feeling of happiness".
Isn't autumn the perfect time of year to begin cultivating your focus on people and events that bring contentment and comfort, while allowing your spirit and body to rest and recharge?
Taking the time to see the moments in your life to create meaning and purpose are profound ways to connect to the coziness of autumn, yet we often get too busy doing life, rather than going within and seeking.
Being in the moment, being present and slowing down allows us to cultivate what is important and set aside precious time for friends and loved ones.
Life is short, and highly unpredictable, and if we take the time now to merge ourselves to what brings purpose, we too, can be comfortable with the slowing of time during fall.
Here are a few ideas on how to incorporate Hygge into your life now ~
Be with people that bring joy and contentment.
Reduce time dedicated to those that do not bring peace.
Be mindful and pay attention to the wonders of life.
Sunrise, sunset, crisp air, puffy clouds & leaves changing are fascinating.
Seek experiences that bring joy versus those that just fill time.
Snuggle with a blanket, drink a warm soothing beverage and light candles.
Use the fall phase of life to create an atmosphere and environment that dedicates itself to filling the soul with wonder, creativity and stillness. Create purpose and hygge.