A new blogging friend Hazel left a very good question in her comment of a couple of days ago. I realize my thoughts, my views on the situation have changed some what over the years and it is time to repost about it.
Her question: ” My inquiry is how can i help someone who knows they are dying?”
It is a straight forward question to which I do wish I had a straight forward answer. This is an issue I am struggling with myself this past while.
How do you treat a dying person? As I have written so very many times I am not a doctor, nor a man of the clergy or any sort of therapist or any such. I am just a man sharing my thoughts and feelings based on my own experiences through this journey in life. This is an attempt to combine how I would like to be treated and in turn try to treat others.
There are so many factors to take into consideration that there is just no one right way. All we can do is our best, do what is in our hearts. Even that must at times be tempered or controlled to suit the situation. our natural impulse is to want to help our loved one. It is so very difficult coming to acceptance when the time comes that there just is nothing we can do, other than provide comfort and support. How do we do that?
Firstly, I think it is important to remember, I am still me. I am still the same person I was prior to the doctor giving me his diagnosis and prognosis. I still like the same things, I AM STILL ME. The only difference is I have some unsettling, disturbing thoughts running around in my head. Think about the things in your life that can upset you, I mean really set you off. Now compare that to hearing that you are dying. How do they compare in importance or significance? How important or significant does your issue seem or compare.
Hearing you are dying is something that it does take some time to get your head wrapped around, depending on where the patient is in the grieving process. Yes the patient grieves also, grieving the pending loss of their own life. Mood spirit what ever can change from day to day or even from hour to hour. Often if someone comes home from work after having an abxoultely horrific day. they are a little bit grumpy and thinking of the day they have had we cut them a little slack, thinking after a day like that it is understandable their mood may not be the best and fair enough. Can we do at least that much for the patient, I would hope so.
OK, you are off for the visit and I really do encourage everyone to make that visit. As I am speaking from experience obviously I can only speak for myself. If you cometo visit me, I am going to do my damnedest to keep the visit as pleasant and enjoyable as possible. i don’t want anyones last memories of me to be of a grumpy old crab. i will push myself to my limit. However when I do reach that point I am just going to tell you I need to lay down or what ever. please don’t be upset, angry or what ever. OK, you may have just arrived but sorry, you may not know the day I have had so far or what I have already done.
How do you talk to me. The same way we have always talked, remember I am still the same person I have always been. Dont’t be afraid of mentioning anything about dying. Guess what I already know that so hearing it from you isn’t going to upset me. Feel free to ask any questions you may have but then let’s drop the subject not dwelling on it.
Let’s reminisce about the good old days, Help me distract my mind from the obvious. I have more to say but just as I do with physical company, when I need to lay down I just say so.
I am going to try and get more up on this subject soon
Bill, thank you for this post. I look forward to a series like this, if you feel up to it. As a matter of fact, I plan to quote you in my own post. You say it all so much better than I, and the subject matter is SO important!
[…] face it. Everyone of us will, if we haven’t already, come face to face with this question. The Dying Man’s Journal addressed this issue in response to a question from one of his readers. With the caveat that every […]
Bill, you were told in 2006 that you are dying… You are still writing a dying man’s blog in 2012. It is six years. You are living. You defied the doctor’s opinion. I think you should change the name of the blog because I can see how you are helping so many people live. You are alive Bill….God bless
My mother died on July 10, 2012. She had melanoma (a form of soft tissue cancer) since she was 13. She had too many surgeries to count. She also had Angina, Asthema, and Diabetes. Near the end of her life she lost so much weight. She complained that she was sick to her stomach. She never took care of her Diabetes. Never took the pills that she was supposed to and never ate properly. SHe wrote in her journals about the pain that she would have in her legs and feet. She said it felt like pins and needles. As I read up more about diabetes and what it could do to your nerves and heart, it made me think that she didn’t die from Cancer but probably diabetes since she had a weak heart to begin with. If only she took care of herself. I miss her but not as much as my father does.
I have been reading through you blog, and cheers to you and the power of “positive living”! As the mom of a daughter with schizophrenia and a son with autism and 2 daughters who are living life with gusto, I have spent the last 20 years looking for something positive in every day. Even if it is simply that I got myself out of bed! The years have been trying, but I know that each trying day has made me a better more compassionate person. 4 months ago my husband had 2 heart attacks. Very eye opening, very frightening. He is ok, but a new worry to add to the shoulders. Stress does ugly things to the body! 1 month ago my dad was driving, doing yard work, and being himself. The next morning at about 4am he had a seizure that took almost 4 hours to get control of. He had never had seizures before. CT scan and MRI confirmed a brain tumor. Since that day, he no longer knows what year it is, confuses us (his children) with his brotherrs and sisters, is unsafe walking without someone close by for “just in case”, and is concerned because he can’t find his mother who as been missing for two weeks ( reality is that she died nearly 40 years ago). It is breaking our hearts and crushing my mother. She is a strong woman, and they have had 60+ years together and while we all understand her own need to be there for him, we don’t want her to become ill because she is trying to do it all. She is exhausted, but wants to do it all and not let us or “burden” us , as she put it, ( us meaning me and my brothers and sisters) help her emotionally, physically or in any way shape or form.
I guess what I am wondering is how does your wife and children cope and allow others to support her and you? I know their time is short, and we don’t want to take that away from her but we want to help, How do we let her know that we want to help, that it is NOT a burden to help care for the man who loved us and supported us in our hopes, dreams, lives, that we want to be there not only for dad, but for her also, for no other reason than we love them? And how do we help her when its time to let go.
I apologize for my lengthy post, but reading your blog was helpful and inspiring. I think Nomad is right, it is time to change the blog’s title, you are a man showing us how to live. I thank you for that.
What hard circumstances for you and your family……and what a loving thing that you want to be present for your mom and dad.
Personally, I think you said it honestly and with love….here. You can say that to your mom. Even if it feels like you can’t, you really can.
We tend to want to shield our kiddos from the messiness, to preserve their memories and there’s a huge piece of us that WANTS to be able to ‘handle it’. It’s difficult to let people help us–and sometimes we don’t know what kind of help we really NEED, yaknow?
I think you said it wonderfully here–and I believe you can say it just as lovingly to your mom as you did to us.
I send prayers and positive thoughts in you and your family’s direction…and peace. During sad, hard times, peace is a very good thing……
Mel, thank you. I do understand about needing help and not knowing quite what that help should look like. I find myself in that position frequently. Our little “chat” made stop and think about that. Sometimes the best help I recieve is from the person who doesn’t offer it, but just looks at the situation and does what they see needs to be done. That is what I have been doing and it seems to be helpful. I actually convinced my mom to go play mahjongg with the girls and get out for a bit while I spent some time with Dad. It made tears come to my eyes when she actually came bouncing through the door 4 hours later…imagine such a little bit of time made such a difference. Dad is looking good physically, but sadly really has no idea at all who any of us are and has developed an infection in his bone. I keep talking to God, letting him know its ok, I am a strong woman, and these shoulders can take whatever it is they need to take, but goodness his design on the knees needs to be revamped as mine are starting to buckle!
I hope you are feeling better, and that Vi is doing well. Try and stay cool, I know here in the NE the humidity has been brutal!
Thank you for for chatting with me, it really did make a difference.
Peace to you,
Help!! I need to ask for prayers for my nephew. He has 5 children and a wife and has been diagnosed with cancer. We’re all quite frantic and need all the help we can get.
Bill, I’m sorry for using your platform for begging, but I’m desperate. Right now there seems to be so many questions and very few definitive answers. “Wait and see” is difficult on us all…Praying for you always, Wiseman.
(((((((( Irene )))))))))) Sending prayers and positive thoughts to you and yours.
I know that pain of ‘wait and see’ is equal to that ‘hurry up and wait’ that panics us when a loved one is diagnosed which means we think they ought to do some yesterday. Wait?! Are they kidding?! DO something.
Rest knowing that there are awesome physicians out there that know the urgency isn’t required for some of the slower growing (albeit ‘aggressive’) cancers. They have a bit of time to think stuff through and to plan their attack.
I’m going to hope that’s the case for the nephew.
*hugs* Hang in there…..k? We’re praying for you and yours!!