Monday, March 24, 2014

Communicating With A Friend Who Is Dying

Talking to people with a terminal diagnosis can be uncomfortable. It is natural to come up blank on what to say at such an emotional time. People hesitate to reach out because they do not want to upset friends and/or family members, but you are really needed now, more than ever. So take a soft approach, listen, and let your friend take the lead on the conversation.

What do you say to people who know their time is limited? Arbor Hospice Spiritual Care Coordinators offer these suggestions:
  • Be with them physically. Presence is often more important than finding the right words to say. As death approaches, your friend may not want to speak. Holding their hand, reading or just being present is often reassuring.
  • Talk about the past and things you two did together. Go down memory lane, revisiting a particular joyful or humorous experience, or ask for some stories from the past, as a way to remember. Even though fate cannot be changed, you can positively impact the days that are remaining. Make the moments count. Even if a response is unlikely, the friend will be encouraged by a good memory.
  • Thank your friend for his/her companionship. Assure your friend of your continued support and care for his/her family.
  • Offer words of comfort such as:
    • I care about you deeply. I am so sorry. Is there anything I can do for you?
    • You are a dear friend and I will never forget you.
    • Your friendship has meant so much to me. I would not be the person I am today without you.
    • I want you to know that I love you and that you will always be with me.
    • Thank you for being such an amazing friend. You have always helped me when I needed a hand. I will never forget that.
How do you know when to go see your friend? Sooner rather than later is the best policy. However, if the family asks you not to visit, respect their wishes.

Remember that you can start a conversation with the person who is dying. Make them feel good about themselves, bring peace between the two of you and reassure them that they have a good soul.

Tell me about your experiences with a loved one facing the end of life. What did you say? What did you do?

This blog post was written by Jaclyn Klein, Arbor Hospice Communications Specialist. You may contact Jaclyn by commenting below or emailing her at

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