The Truth about Being with Someone Who is Dying

It is never easy to be unable to help someone you love who is leaving this world.  Helplessness in dying irreparably breaks our heart.

What are we to do when sitting and waiting while we watch someone die?  Some say, pray.  Meditate.  Talk to the person because they can still hear us.  Say goodbye.  Hold their hand.  Hold them.  Cry.  Read to them.  Sing to them.  Tell stories.  Tell them you love them.  Thank them.  Tell them you forgive them.  Ask for their forgiveness.  Tell them it is ok to let go.

All of these are true, and yet the breaking of our heart continues.  With each remaining breath, our heart cracks a little more.  With each reluctant realization that we will be separated, the piece of our heart falls away, forever.

Being in this state of crumbling is excruciating.  We want to leave.  We want to stay.  We want to scream and cry and rail at the unfairness of the world.  We want to disappear into an abyss.  We are fearful that the abyss will swallow us.  We want to do anything to change this, even offering our own life.  We are desperate for it to end.  We cling to every moment so that it won’t end.

There are no answers that will neatly package this experience.  Our human-ness is not neat.  Love is messy.  Dying leaves marks.  Being present for the experience seems impossible to sustain.  Finding compassion gets lost in the search for ground in this groundless time.

Sometimes, the best we can do is breathe.


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