What do you say to someone who is Dying?

February 25, 2019

The Winter 2019 issue of Breast Cancer Wellness magazine contained an article written by Rev. Patrick Riecke entitled “When There Are No Magic Words”.  His assertion is “that we kind of stink at helping people who are dying”.  Rev. Riecke does not leave us at this point, but as a gentle teacher would, goes on to suggest five things a dying person probably needs to hear.

  • “I’m here now.”

They need you to be present. Be. Here. Now.

  • “Beating the (whatever the challenge) isn’t the only way to win.”

Feel better – Get well soon – does not fit. 

  • “Yes I will.”

Don’t talk like that – You’re going to beat this –  Doesn’t always fit the situation.

  • “You are still you.”

Continue to treat the person as you always would. 

  • “What do you want to do?”

It gives the dying person power, choices, respect, opportunity and helps them find meaning.

A few years ago a good friend of mine was dying of pancreatic cancer.  It seemed as her time came closer, we became closer.  I stopped being the cheerleader and began to listen more closely to her wants and needs.  When I did that, she began to trust me more and was able to share her thoughts and ideas more easily.  One day very near the end she asked me, “How do I die?  I’ve been trying but I don’t know what to do to make it happen?”  I assured her that her body would know what to do.  We talked about how we didn’t know how to birth a baby and yet it happened as our body just took over when it was time and how dying would most likely be the same.  She then relaxed and in a few days her body took over and she left us.

Rev. Patrick Riecke has written a book entitled; How do Talk with Sick, Dying, and Grieving People, When There are No Magic Words to Say.

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