Sitting by the bedside of a dying loved one keeping awake and alert is a vigil. The vigil can provide comfort and meaning, resolution and peace to both the dying person and their loved ones. It is by being present in the moment and bearing witness to the death and one’s own grief that can enhance the dying process.

With this in mind, the best thing that we can bring to the bedside of a dying person is our own quiet, peaceful mind. There is a heightened sensitivity to the subtle energies in the room. This is why hospices encourage anything calming, such as music, meditation, aromatherapy and massage.

Be present with the dying person and let them be your guide. Hold hands, look in their eyes, feel the emotions that come up. If they wish to reminisce or share their wisdom listen and participate in their life review. Write down your thoughts and feelings. Be willing to reconcile past hurts and say goodbye.

Your vigil over a loved one’s dying process can sometimes seem lonely, especially in the wee hours of the morning when you may be tired and alone. It is natural to feel many emotions during this time. Often you may feel abandoned by God or feel angry that God has not healed and restored your loved one to health. Doubts may arise about your ability to continue to vigil with your loved one until they die. These feelings are normal.

Be gentle with yourself. Care-giving is hard work. Organize family and friends to take turns sitting with your love one. Take care of yourself by planning frequent breaks, eating regular meals and getting plenty of sleep. Accept help, because it is simply too stressful to do this alone.

Remember that this sacred time can be deeply meaningful possibly including an intense connection to a loving spiritual presence. A vigil provided with caring hearts provides great comfort to a dying person as they prepare to leave.