How Deeply To Be Involved

Unlike close family members who may be responsible for most or much of the care, a friend of a dying person needs to think about how much to be involved. The amount of time you spend with an acquaintance who is ill probably will differ from that spent with one to whom you’re very close. The degree of involvement that seems to work best is the same or a little more than before illness set in, but it’s important to decide consciously how great or little that involvement will be.

Suggestions for what to say, if you visit

You may want to reflect in advance about how to help and what to say. Remember, there is no one “right” thing to say. Dying people need the company of those who will listen, who are willing to understand their situations, and who continue to offer love and friendship in the face of death. Some conversation starters:

“Can you tell me what’s happening?”

“I really feel sad when I think about what’s happening to you.”

Many dying people say they are lonely, not only because people don’t visit, but also because of what happens when people do visit. In general it is not helpful to avoid conversations about what is happening to the dying person. This can cause the dying person to feel more isolated. It is usually best to allow the dying person to talk about what is happening to them and then listen.

If you decide not to visit,send a card, flowers or offer specific help– to run an errand, grocery shop, provide needed household help and then follow through. Honest, loving attempts to help are almost always well received.