Michael writes in: My sister is dying of breast cancer. I don’t know how to be with her. I want to say something but so far I only speak to myself.
John Pete resonds: Hi Michael. It can be very difficult to be with someone who is dying and we often try too hard to think of the “right” things to say or do. It can help to think about how you would want to be treated in their situation. Dying is not only about dying – it is about living out a life while coping with a terminal illness. I commend you for seeking ways to reach out. It is easy for someone who is dying to become isolated by those around them not knowing how to reach out, so avoiding the situation altogether.
The most important thing you can do is allow your sister to be herself, and to listen to her intently. Offer your non-judgmental support and be prepared to listen and respond from the heart through likely periods of fear, anger and despair which often occurs, then gives way to gradual acceptance. Everyone is different, and it is best to respond to your sister’s individual needs.
You will likely find that first steps to share this experience with your sister are often the most difficult. I recommend beginning with visiting your sister in person and letting her know that you are there to offer your support. One of the things we commonly hear is that those who are dying don’t want to be treated differently. They want to spend their remaining time living, not dying.
Keep in mind that your sister is the same person she was before her illness, and that can provide a lot of insight as to how you can best support her. If you are close to your sister, she may be more open to confiding in you. And if you do not have a close relationship, this is an opportunity for you to open the door to changing that. Be there for her however you reasonably can. When you do not know what say, do not be afraid to say so directly to her, and use it as a further opportunity to ask her how you can support her. And sometimes, just being there with her will be enough.
John Pete, GC-C
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John Pete

John Pete is a spiritual writer, founder of Daily Grief Quotes on Facebook, and was a Certified Grief Counselor for over 10-years . He has appeared on the "Grieving The Healing Heart" radio program and is published in the 2011 books, "Open To Hope, Inspirational Stories of Healing After Loss," "Grieving the Sudden Death of a Loved One" (2012, DVD), and Grief Diaries - Through the Eyes of Men (2016, book). John Pete is online at https://facebook.com/dailygriefquotes.

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