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PhiNotPi's avatar

What to say/do when a family member is close to death?

Asked by PhiNotPi (12232 points ) 2 months ago

I have a grandparent whose health is rapidly deteriorating. My family plans on visiting him this weekend. I am afraid that, unless there is a sudden reversal of circumstances, this may be the last time that I ever see him.

Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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10 Answers

Mimishu1995's avatar

Just try not to mention anything about his health. Talk about all the positive things you can think of. Try to make him comfortable.

At least if this is really the last time you see him, you can be sure you have some good time with him.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Record history. Ask him questions – all the things you will not be able to ask later.
Ask about his grandparents. Make a family tree with him. Where did he grow up? Where did his parents grow up? How did he meet your grandmother?

Unless he is totally out of it, he knows this might be the last time. He’ll appreciate your efforts. Really.

Fire up that family tree software now! It will take his mind (and yours) away from the situation.
I wish you well.

ibstubro's avatar

I’m sorry, @PhiNotPi.

I agree with @LuckyGuy. Try to accept his inevitable death, as he likely has, and encourage him to talk about himself, his life, and the people that were most important in his life. Relax, and try not to appear uncomfortable, anxious or overtly sad. If it’s appropriate and you’re comfortable with it, touch him. People often act as if death is contagious – just placing your hand on his arm as he speaks can be a comfort.

If he appears to have accepted the end, then by all means, when you say goodbye, mean it and if you feel love for him, tell him so, even if you have to whisper it when no one else is near.

It’s a tough time, but you can turn it into a memory that is more sweet than bitter.

GloPro's avatar

I agree with @LuckyGuy, too. I have a tape of my grandfather telling me stories of his childhood. Funny ones, where he tormented his brothers with practical jokes or the time he tied the cow to a rotting telephone pole in 1918 or so. He brought the entire town’s phone lines down when the cow walked away and the pole fell over, dragging the rest down with it.

You will enjoy hearing them, both in the moment and years to come, if you allow yourself to relax and focus on the moment, not the future.

LuckyGuy's avatar

You are a little young for this (sorry) but I have asked if the STBD, soon to be departed, wanted me to do anything. A will only covers so much. My father in law wanted me to “straighten out the guns”. He had things on his permit that he no longer owned. He had items that were not on his permit. He had ancient stuff he wanted his “kids” to pass down to their children.

It was a mess but I did it.

marinelife's avatar

Tell him that you love him. Mention any special memories that you have of him from your childhood. Thank him for things he has given you (knowledge, etc.)

If he is up to it, do as Lucky Guy suggests. You will always treasure the moments. If possible, tape his reminiscences.

gailcalled's avatar

Also allow yourself to feel whatever you need to feel. There will be a gamut of emotions, including ones that you may privately think are inappropriate…they are not. A death bed vigil varies according to your grandfather’s age, causation, awareness, family dynamics, your private relationship with him and a million other things.

Lots of very good suggestions listed above…I would add that families, if it is in their nature, are allowed some moments of levity and laughter, amid the anguish and tears and sadness.

Keep us posted, if you have the energy and it is not too distracting.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

The jellies have put it all brilliantly. Be on the listening side more.

pleiades's avatar

If I were dying in a deteriorating state, I would hope my grand kids ask me as many questions as possible, interesting ones, silly ones, all kinds. It would give me a great sense that I have passed on some knowledge/experience!

Also take photo for yourself

janbb's avatar

Tell him you love him and then take your cues from him. Too many questions may confuse or disturb him. Sitting quietly and holding his hand might be what he needs instead.

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