During my nursing career I was present at the death of many people.
I learned the rhythms of dying and death.
And I observed the sacredness of that space.
As a counsellor, I have heard from many people about their experiences with their loved one dying. Some found the experience deeply comforting, others felt cheated.
This is what I observed was the experience of those who felt comforted.
The passage from life to death is a sacred one. For the one dying it is a time of great dignity. It may not seem dignified if the outward appearances are of pain, but that person is crossing from a life of pain to a death of peace.
It is important to remember that not everyone wants family around them when they die. I have seen people who wait until their family leave the room before they die.
I have also seen others who wait until their family arrive before they die.
It is a highly individual thing.
If you are at your loved one’s side when they die, it is best to just remain there.
Don’t rush to call for help. Just be there. Be present in the moment. Allow yourself to feel the enormity of what has happened.
In my experience, those who rush to call a doctor (if at home) or a nurse (if in hospital) or a relative are the ones who feel cheated. Rushing to tell others brings the busyness crashing into the dying space before it is ready.
Just be and don’t panic. Don’t think it is essential for people to know immediately. Just be and allow the sacredness of your loved one’s passing to be present.
Allow yourself the chance to adjust to the reality of your loved one’s death. That reality is always a shock. You need time to absorb that. To allow yourself time to feel the reality of it.
People who tell me they took that time, report feeling comforted and being able to managed the loss better.
Be aware of what is happening for you. What you are feeling. What your body is telling you. Feel the room and what is happening there. Allow yourself to feel the sacredness of this space.
If your loved one dies when you are not there you can still sit with that sacredness. It doesn’t go quickly. But don’t get caught up in conversations once you are sitting with them. Leave everything outside the door. Just be in that space with no agenda and no plans.
I have been blessed to wash the bodies of many who have departed this life. That is how I know the sacredness that is present at death. Relatives have often arrived later and sat with their loved one. I have done it myself when my mother died.
Allow yourself to sit in that space and don’t rush to leave. Leave when you are ready. You cannot come back to that time later. Once the moment has passed it is gone.
Things will get busy quickly, and you will get caught up in funeral preparations and other busyness for many days or weeks.
So take those initial few hours slowly. Don’t take on too much initially. Just allow yourself to be with the reality, even after the sacred time with your loved one has passed.