When Death Comes Knocking

Death is the one inevitable part of life. No one can escape it; no one can outrun it. Death swoops in and takes who it will, not caring much for those left behind. Many times in life, death comes unexpectedly, touching us in ways that fill our hearts with grief, anguish, and pain. As elderly parents age, death looms closer and closer each day. The struggle is for the children to prepare for their parents’ deaths and begin to accept it.

As death nears, the body begins to shut down. Your loved one may not desire to eat or drink as much as they used to. The National Caregivers Library says, “The person’s body lets him/her know when it no longer desires or can tolerate foods or liquids. The loss of this desire is a signal that the person is making ready to leave.” It is their choice not to eat, meaning their body no longer wants food or water. This is not painful for them at this point as empty stomachs and dehydration no longer make them uncomfortable.

Your loved one may also feel that they don’t want to be around many people. They may become more introverted and seek the company of only one or two people, especially as their life nears the end. “This is a sign of preparation for release and affirms from whom the support is most needed in order to make the appropriate transition. If you are not part of this inner circle at the end, it does not mean you are not loved or are unimportant.” (Hospice)

The elderly feel weak and fatigued as they near death. This means they will sleep more, become less communicative, and may be difficult to awaken at times. As the National Caregivers Library says, “At this point, ‘being with’ is more important than ‘doing for.’ Never assume that the person cannot hear. Hearing may still remain very acute although the person may seem asleep.” Because of this you shouldn’t say anything out loud that you wouldn’t say if your loved one were actively awake. You should speak softly and naturally. Simply hearing your voice can help your loved one through this difficult time.

When the time comes that these signs are present and your loved one’s body is fading, you, as their support system, need to let go. Stewart Alsop said, “A dying man needs to die, as a sleepy man needs to sleep, and there comes a time when it is wrong, as well as useless, to resist.” Most elderly that die of old age have lived a long, fulfilling life. Their body is preparing to die, and it is your responsibility to help them mentally by allowing yourself to say goodbye.

“A dying person will commonly try to hold on, even though it brings prolonged discomfort, in order to be assured that those left behind will be all right. A family’s ability to reassure and release the dying person from this concern is the greatest gift of love they can give at this time.” (National Caregivers Library)

Take a moment to sit with your loved one and say a personalized ‘goodbye.’ Many people who lose loved ones never get the chance to say all that they wanted to. Living with these regrets makes grieving more difficult and causes healing to take more time. Crying is a normal and natural part of saying goodbye. Don’t try to hide your tears or apologize for them. Tears show your love for the one near death, and they will help you to let go.

When death comes knocking, for it will, make sure you’re as prepared as possible to help your loved one die in peace and then to help yourself to let go and move on. Death is the one inevitable part of life, the one thing we should be able to prepare for, yet even when we think we’re prepared, we find that losing someone close to us is still painful and heartbreaking. It is natural to feel grief and sorrow, each copes with death in their own way, but in the end, we all must accept what has come and move on.


About National Care Planning Council

The National Care Planning Council and its affiliated members are dedicated to helping families recognize the need for long term care planning. We are committed to raising awareness and providing information on common eldercare issues. Integrity, honesty, and a genuine concern for the elderly and their families are at the heart of our services.

Posted on March 30, 2012, in Death/Burial/Funeral Preplanning and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

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  6. A good friend of mine just recently passed away. It’s really hard to lose someone you care about – especially so unexpectedly. You just wish you had said more, laughed more, spent a little more time. There’s nothing worse than grieving with regrets. I love the part in this article that talks about saying goodbye. It’s so hard to do but trust me when I say that it’s so much better than regretting that you never said goodbye while you had the chance.

  1. Pingback: Medical Care at the End-of-Life | Tracy Wayne Mitchell's WordPress Blog

  2. Pingback: End-of-Life Medical Care | Tracy Wayne Mitchell's WordPress Blog

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