Some suggestions for friends of the dying

It is important for you to be able to say your goodbyes to your dying friend. Even so, for some families it can be difficult to accept friends being present during the dying process.  Other families will be delighted and relieved to have you there.  So, you may need to feel your way through this. Providing the right kind of support to relatives of the dying is important, as well as being non-judgemental about how relatives and other friends may be emotionally affected by what is happening.   It’s little acts of kindness that count, and will be remembered.

What to do:

  • Check with the family if it’s okay to say your goodbyes in person. You may want to do this on your own, or while family members are present. Just let them know what you would prefer.
  • If you are able to, offer to sit with your dying friend.  This can be very comforting for families.  Be sure you can provide this support as being with someone who is dying can be very stressful and upsetting.
  • Send regular short texts or emails to relatives, without expecting an answer.  It is comforting for the family to know you are thinking of them.
  • Offer to baby-sit, cook meals for the family, or to fetch and carry youngsters to and from school.  You may be needed to take other relatives to seeing the dying person.
  • Don’t take offense if you are not wanted! The offer of unconditional help is often enough.

What not to do:

  • Don’t send Get Well cards when you know someone is dying.  It can be very upsetting for relatives to read them.
  • Don’t expect relatives to spend hours on the phone talking to you.  They will be have enough to do caring for their dying relative.
  • Don’t expect relatives to engage in conversations that do not revolve around the dying person, or the care they are getting.
  • Don’t ask questions to a dying person who is too ill to respond.   It can be very stressful for them to try and communicate with you.
  • Don’t be falsely jolly. Be sensitive and be yourself.

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