Faith · family

Caring for someone you love who is terminally ill (and yourself)

 

handsI’ve been struggling to write again since my mom passed away on Friday, March 31st…

People always talk about feeling like there is a hole in their heart when someone passes.  Unfortunately, I now understand what they are talking about.  I held my mom’s hand when she stopped breathing and since then, life feels fuzzy.  I want to tell her things, show her pictures, send her a text, but she is no longer here to tell.  It hurts…it hurts worse then I imagined it would.

I’m going to be honest here, my mom and I did not have that picture perfect relationship.  She was a hard person to get along with.  I’m not the easiest to get along with either. However, she was and always will be my mom and I loved her.

My mom was diagnosed with leukemia.  Her body was unable to handle the treatment and her kidneys were compromised.  She was very clear that she would not have dialysis.  At that point, the kidney doctor gave her 1-2 days.  Fortunately, that doctor was wrong.  I arrived in town on a Saturday and was able to spend my mom’s last six days by her side.

I have some advice that I’d like to share with you after this experience.  I’m no expert on how to handle caring for your loved one and yourself, but there are a few things that gave me comfort and many things that I learned in the process.  Today, I want to focus on what gave me comfort during the days leading up to her departure from this life onto eternal life in heaven.

  1. Contact your pastor:  We were very fortunate to have a pastor that visited my mom often in her final days.  That was comforting to my mom, but was also very comforting to our family.  We were able to take communion with my mom and even sing hymns with her.  This is something I will always treasure.
  2. Ask for information regarding the end of life process:  There are some scary and somewhat gross things that one may experience as death approaches.  I found it easier to be prepared for these.  The hospital was able to provide us with a small folder that covered everything that we experienced (and more that we thankfully did not).  It also covers things such as not arguing with a person if they say they see some deceased relative or something of that sort.
  3. Find a way to comfort your loved one:  My mom loved a nice cold ice pack on her forehead.  It really was the simple things at this point.  She also liked her popsicles (but not the purple ones!).  Her lips were often dry, so chapstick was helpful too.
  4. Give yourself permission to step away:  It’s hard to step away when you know that your loved on could pass away at any moment.  However, if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you aren’t going to be any help to them or your other family members.  I also had a nurse tell me that her mother did not pass until the entire family left the room and she believed that was intentional on her mom’s part.
  5. Hold their hand:  I’m not sure what else to say about this, but that contact will be a beautiful memory for me and I feel like it was of comfort to her.
  6. Say “I Love You” and more:  Think through what you always wish you had told your loved one and say it!  You are lucky enough to have this time, take advantage of it.  What are you grateful to them for?  What are you sorry for?  What do you love about them?  What will you miss?  Tell them!  Don’t have any regrets and say what you need to.  You may also want to turn the table and ask them some of these questions.
  7. Read bible verses or play/sing songs:  Reading from the bible was very comforting for me when my mom was no longer vocal and appeared to be incoherent.  John 3:16, John 11: 25-26,  Psalm 23:4 are a few that I found to help.  I actually took singing lessons when our son was born.  The only song I learned was Amazing Grace.  I sang it to my mom several times.  I also looked up some hymns online and other songs that brought me comfort and I felt she would like.

If you are reading this while caring for your loved one, I am very sorry you are going through this.  It is not an easy road, but I hope that these items help you.  Please feel free to send me a message or comment if you have any questions.  

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9 thoughts on “Caring for someone you love who is terminally ill (and yourself)

  1. Jen — I’m so sorry for your loss. This was beautifully written with great advice. Unfortunately, I have experience in this. I was with both my mother and father when they took their last breath. While hard, I was able to see that it was passing — simple, calm, no trauma. Of course it was only bearable because of my faith in God and Jesus as my risen Lord and Savior. May this Easter season bring you peace as you work through your grief. If I may recommend a book that helped me, please read (when you’re ready) Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman. Any loss changes you. Losing your mother changes you in ways for which you may not be prepared. My prayers go out to you for peace and comfort.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lynn! I thought often about how hard it would be if we didn’t have our faith. I honestly can’t fathom it. It’s hard enough with it. My mom’s birthday is on Good Friday, thank God for Easter.
      I will certainly check out that book. Thank you for the recommendation and your prayers.

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  2. Thank you for this, Jen. All your advice is good. Praise the Lord Jesus for His everlasting presence–“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Love you.

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  3. This was such a beautifully written piece. I’m sorry for what you have lost, I can’t begin to imagine what you must be going through x

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  4. Sorry for your loss, but I’m glad you found the strength to reach out and write this post. I’m sure it won’t be easy, but I hope you can find comfort in writing and helping others through this necessary but difficult passage in life we all must take.

    Like

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