when someone is dying…

Watching someone die is never going to be easy. Something is breaking. A world is ending. It is not going to be okay. The light is greying out.

It is not far short of 6 months since my dad died and I feel like I travelled 10,000 miles – in fact maybe I have.

In the depths of my dark there were times when it was good to know that I was not alone, that there were others clutching hands, loving the leaving, mourning as lives streamed from the earth. There was comfort in company, in feeling a little bit less alone.

But sometimes that same knowledge is painful, another inch of awful, another ache. Loss is as unique as love, but its pains are shared and I can’t help but feel for others who stumble the same stony paths.

Even in slow days of creeping death there is a lot to be thankful for, a lot that is beautiful, blessed. Loss can be life affirming but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t spare you if I could.

I wish I could spare myself the losses still come but loss is inevitable. It keeps on coming around again, embroidering the fabric of this with the rise and fall of life and death, and so it will until infinity is done and all things unravel. There is no escape, no undo, no way out. We must all make this journey.

Sometimes I think of the lives shuffling into deaths, waiting in line for the beginning of the end, and I wish I had more certainties to hold on to.

I wonder what words I have to give to those who will grieve, what it is I’ve learned from losing. I have words of hope, happiness and reassurance but I won’t write them here because I wouldn’t have believed them back in that then.

I have a lot of other posts that are light and bright. You can read them if the positives are what you would like, if you are ready to open the shutters a crack.

Otherwise what I have is just this:

Grieve, smile, shout, rant – feel what you must – anything, everything is normal. There is no shame in hurting, howling or throwing fruit. Cry in the toilet if you need to. In fact cry anywhere and anytime you need to, and to hell with anyone who stares.

Forgive yourself when you have no strength or heart left to feel anything, when all inside is silent and still. You are not cold, you are not dead – I promise.

Find a safe place where you can express anything. Be angry, resentful, bitter, and selfish when you feel you can’t not. Allow yourself to be awful once in a while.

Be gentle with yourself. Be patient with yourself in all things, treat yourself with compassion.

Other times will come whether you want them to or not. You do not need to have the strength to will the world around.

Ask for help. Accept what is offered with the same grace you would like to give. People undoubtedly love you and feel for you far more than they know how to say or show. Give them the opportunity to be who you need them to be.

Scratch ”should have” and ”ought to have” from your vocabulary. It is too late to make a better yesterday. Guilt will just steal more time. It never brings any back.

However long you have will never be enough, but you have to make it enough. Make every moment count that you can. Be awake, be aware.

You have right now. Live it fully, even if that just means sitting beside someone as they doze through daytime TV. Whole lives can be lived in those days. There don’t always have to fireworks for there to be celebration. There is joy in nothings too.

Try your best to shrug off the weight of all you wish could have been. One day, this moment that you are wishing away might be one of the ones you want back. Remember that.

If you have something important to say, say it, even if your tongue sticks, stumbles or slurs and the words are half made. There might never be another tomorrow. There might never be another chance to try to make this time different.

Love well, survive, the rest is incidental.

This entry was posted in death, grief, reflections and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to when someone is dying…

  1. speccy says:

    When I grow up, I want to express myself as beautifully as you do 🙂

    (since I’m 46, it may be too late for me)

    • Thanks for the compliment Speccy – having been called ‘ma’am’ a few too many times this week I am feeling very very elderly at the grand old age of 33 so let’s both tell ourselves that there is no such thing as too late!

  2. Casey B says:

    Thank you for this beautiful post. You’ve expressed yourself amazingly throughout it.

  3. Felipe Neumann says:

    This. (:
    Definitely one of my favorite posts by you. I guess it all comes down to grace, not only with others trying to help us somehow, but to ourselves, releasing all guilt, keeping the fond memories, building something out of the dust.

  4. Talk to me...I'm your Mother says:

    This is a lovely, heartfelt post. Thank you.

  5. Hope says:

    I needed to hear this today. Thank you

  6. missmetrodc says:

    A friend told me this (although you might need more than three minutes) —

    The Vietnamese have a saying:
    “Be angry
    Or annoyed
    For five minutes”

    These days
    I’ll add:
    In despair
    For three minutes”

    • Dear Missmetrodc, thanks for the comment – that is a great saying! I think I could manage with 3 minutes as long as there was some kind of repeat as required clause…. 🙂

      • Loss is as unique as love

        oh.. my..

        everyone who grieves NEEDS this post. I am going to share it with the hospice team we are working with. I have lost an awful lot of people in 7 years (19 I think) but each death is different and each grief is too. I am going to be awful and I am going to be ok with it. you have no idea how much this post helped me. thank you thank you!! xx Jen

      • Hey Jen, Glad you found your way to this post and that is was at least a little help. You were one of the people in my thoughts when when I wrote it. Unfortunately I don’t know how to e-mail the post itself as is but you could either e-mail a link to it or copy and paste it into an e-mail?

  7. This was a beautiful post. I thought I’d come by and visit after the lovely comment you left on my blog post today.

    I love your comments about forgetting about the ‘shoulds’ and wondering what is normal and what isn’t. As you know from my post… that’s where I’m at, at the moment.


  8. rockafellaskank says:

    Oops… just realised I may have left the last message from my diet blog rather than this one….

  9. do you know of a way to email this post from here??? xx Jen

  10. ccie3 says:

    I lost my dad four years ago and I feel as though I can relate to this post. It’s inspiring, and just reminds me that we all go through trying times, but we never go through them alone. It’s time to stop living in the guilt of the past so that I can appreciate the present. Thank you 🙂

    • Hey CCie, Glad you came by, read this and that it meant something. There is something funny about how much in grief is shared even as it feels utterly isolating. In many ways I think I wrote this for myself as much as anyone else – there are some things that need to be done again and again. This week I am working at letting myself be a bit awful!

  11. ccbrand says:

    Thank you for this. Your writing is beautiful, and I needed to hear this. I have a feeling I’ll be re-reading this many times in the months to come.

  12. skpadilla says:

    The final words say it all: Love well, survive, the rest is incidental.
    I lost my sister over six years ago, and this post completely resonates with me. Wishing you peace and strength in the journey.

    • Mm I kind of wanted to have this down somewhere for the next time the grief comes round.. and also for all the other people finding their way through their own losses. Thank you for coming by and reading. I really loved your letter to your sister.

  13. orlandobookofthedead says:

    Thanks for the visit to my wee blog. I’m grateful I could visit yours 🙂

  14. Hello there you

    I am back re reading this post AND I want to link it to my blog. THIS is a Beautiful post

    Do you know how to make this go on my blog???

    I could never express myself this beautifully….

    xxx Jen

  15. Kathy says:

    Incredible post. It’s been over 3 years since I lost my mom but I can feel every word you wrote. The loss never goes away. It just gets easier to accept as time goes on and sometimes you aren’t given a choice. I have not blogged about this and never will. My dad is getting remarried in May. I know it is what my mom would have wanted. I know my dad is happy, loved and not alone. I am happy for him. But for me it just reinforces that my mom is gone. My heart still aches for her. ~ Kathy

  16. Life Student says:

    What a wonderful post. Comforting and good instruction.

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