How To Comfort A Friend Who Is Dying

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Have you ever wondered how to comfort a friend who is dying? I am going to talk about my friend Cinda today who I met about ten years ago. I first met her at a neighborhood luncheon and she was sitting alone at a table. I sat down next to her and we started talking about our family, food storage, emergency preparedness and so much more. This is the day our friendship started. We started talking more and more each week, month or whenever we could. Cinda and I were passionate about food storage and being prepared for the unexpected. We would email each other with ideas and thoughts and even taught a class or two together about emergency preparedness.

We would share ideas on what we thought we could do to get the neighborhood involved in being prepared for a disaster or unforeseen emergency. One day Cinda called me to come help her pack up her home because she and her husband had sold their home. She had another friend come and help pack from a different neighborhood, as well. She had mentioned she had some pain in her abdomen and had gone to the doctor to get checked out. The doctor couldn’t find anything wrong. She used herbal therapy, essential oils and some kind of massage therapy by a friend. The pain got worse and she eventually went back to the original doctor who realized she had missed a serious disease, She was now diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. She told the doctor not to worry because we all make mistakes. It was a hard cancer to detect.

She and her husband headed to Salt Lake City, Utah to a treatment center that specializes in cancer care to see if any treatment would work. She was told she had 18 months to live without any treatment, and two years with treatment.They headed back home and her husband had to go back to work to pay the bills. Cinda could no longer work. Her husband worked nights at the local hospital as a nurse, and they asked for volunteers to sleep overnight at her home so she wouldn’t be alone. I think I slept there three or four nights a week. You would think it would be difficult going there knowing your friend would die sometime in the next two years or less. It wasn’t, it was actually fun to be together because we are both Christians and had some really good stories about when we both attended bible school when we were younger. We would look at photos and books and talk about how she lived, how she met her husband, the day her son was born and the list goes on and on. I listened and loved every story she talked about.

Well, she and I started looking online for other cancer clinics. Each night we would go over the charts of the advantages of this clinic to another clinic. Every cancer clinic/hospital was on a spreadsheet and we would talk about the pro and cons of each one. She decided she would call one the next morning she felt really comfortable with and made an appointment to go see if they thought she had a chance at extending her life. She and her husband headed there and loved the place and the people. She started treatments shortly thereafter. The sleepovers continued after she started the treatments at the new hospital when would return home in between treatments.

Friends rallied around her, and I don’t know about the others, but I drove over to her rental home in my pajamas with my pillow and blanket when it was my sleepover night. We would talk, giggle, and laugh until 11:00 P.M. at night. I would leave before she woke up because her husband came home from work around 5:00 A.M. in the morning. I will cherish forever those nights with her.

The treatments continued and she lost her hair and I said when she’s gone I wanted her wig because it was a classic! I know we all have family members, close friends, and acquaintances who have won their battle against cancer, and some who have lost that battle. Some have died from other diseases or accidents.

She called me in December 2013 and said she had lost the battle but wanted me to hear it from her before I heard from someone else. We said our goodbyes and she asked that I remember her as she lived and not how she died. We cried together and I told her to watch from heaven because I would continue to teach the world to be prepared for the unexpected. She gave me a blue and green hummingbird to hang and to remember her by looking at the hummingbird.  She made it through Christmas and died in February 2014.

My tips for dealing with a dying friend:

  1. Laugh with them.
  2. Talk with them about the good times you both have had together.
  3. Ask them to share stories about their life.
  4. Giggle with them (it’s different than laughing with them, trust me).
  5. Bring them their favorite candy or treat.
  6. Bring them meals to help the family.
  7. Clean their house (especially the bathrooms).
  8. Change their sheets.
  9. Clean the kitchen.
  10. Bring them fresh fruit and vegetables.
  11. Ask them how they feel about dying, this was the most special question I asked Cinda.
  12. Help them write their life history, if they are interested, or at least write-down stories they cherished.
  13. Listen, listen and listen again to whatever they want to talk about.
  14. Hug them and tell them you love them.
  15. Be sure and visit your friend, even if you don’t know what to say.
  16. Talk about the illness, you can see cues from your friend if he or she wants to talk about it.
  17. Ask them what’s on their mind today.
  18. Treat your friend as you always have, she or he is the same person.
  19. Sometimes people don’t want to be a burden so they don’t ask for help (trust me you will gain more for serving those who need help).
  20. Do something for the partner or spouse (this is a very hard time for them too) I brought her husband a six pack of Coke and M & M peanuts!

I have two regrets in my life, the first was when I was 20 and my neighbor’s 2-week old baby died from Meningitis. I didn’t know what to say so I said nothing. I’m sure she could have used a hug and someone to talk to, or whatever. My other regret was when I gave birth to a healthy baby girl and my lifelong friend who I lived next door to growing up gave birth to a stillborn baby within weeks of my giving birth. I didn’t send a note, I didn’t call her. I didn’t know what to say. I regret this 40+ years later.

Elderly Tips

I only wish my friend Cinda had been able to read my book: Prepare Your Family for Survival: How to Be Ready for Any Emergency or Disaster Situation

My favorite emergency preparedness items:

The Survival Medicine Handbook: A Guide for When Help is Not on the Way
Blue Can – Premium Emergency Drinking Water
AquaBrick Food and Water Storage Container – Brick Only
Kelly Kettle Ultimate Stainless Steel Large Base Camp Kit

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18 thoughts on “How To Comfort A Friend Who Is Dying

  • April 11, 2016 at 7:50 am
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    Linda
    thank you so much for that article. My husband has Parkinson’s and after seven years he is now going down quickly. After reading your article I realized that I have become his nurse and not his wife. I have listened to his stories so many times that I was beginning to turn a deaf ear. You have brought back my compassion for someone who may not be here this Christmas. It is difficult for those who are left behind but it is easier for us than it is for them. Thank you again for that reminder. Today will be different. I will leave the house cleaning aside and sit with him and ask him to remember, as his wife.
    blessings to you and yours.
    Vivian
    Cincinnati, Ohio

    Reply
    • April 11, 2016 at 9:53 am
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      Oh, Vivian, I have goosebumps reading your comment. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think being a 24/7 caregiver is one of the hardest but the most rewarding jobs on earth. I’m sure your husband is thankful you care for him and listen to his stories. I live in the midst of elderly people and I hear the same stories over and over. I hope when I start telling the same stories over and over someone will listen and love me just the same way. May God bless you in your journey of life. Hugs from the heart! Linda

      Reply
  • April 11, 2016 at 9:59 am
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    Dear Linda ; I have no words to express the feeling I had while reading this message. If you have reached only one soul with this story of your love for your friend Cinda, it was mine. Unfortunately we don’t always have the opportunity to provide this comfort to our friends and before we realize it they have passed on without knowing how much we loved them. You were truly lucky to be able to share this with Cinda. On another note, I was one of those who experienced the death of not one but 2 of my infant sons. I never understood why their passing seemed to go unnoticed by friends and even family, while my husband and I never stopped grieving. Even a short note of condolence would be appreciated and would validate their little lives short as they were. To this day, 40 years later, I treasure the couple of cards we did receive. It is never too late to comfort a grieving friend or neighbor. Thanks and God Bless!

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    • April 11, 2016 at 10:17 am
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      Hi Katherine, thank you for sharing your thoughts today, this means the world to me. I’m so sorry to hear about your two little boys passing. My mother had a nine-month stillborn birth (my sister) and I now have thoughts that she probably went through the same thing you and your husband went through after their passing. I think we are sharing with the world how to help those that are grieving even 40 years later today. I wish I had written a short note of condolences for my friends to treasure years later. May God bless you for sharing your story. Hugs coming your way! Linda

      Reply
  • April 11, 2016 at 11:31 am
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    Linda, Thank you for sharing such a personal and loving experience… I am sure that your insight will help many of us to know how to reach out while there is still time to help comfort our loved ones. I think if we ask most people would say that they would rather have a visit when they are still alive, rather than our sorrow and tears at their grave. I used to wonder why we buy flowers when someone has died instead why not shower them with flowers when they are still alive and can see how much we care… If we can’t afford flowers then shower them with love, that only requires some thought and our time.

    Love this…

    Reply
    • April 11, 2016 at 1:52 pm
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      Hi Karen, I totally agree with you about the flowers. I have told my husband when I die I want a celebration at a park and no flowers. Showering someone with love means so much more than a bouquet of flowers before we die. Thanks Karen, hugs! Linda

      Reply
  • April 11, 2016 at 1:13 pm
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    Linda, Thank you for sharing. I lost my first baby at 37 weeks. Her heart stopped after I was given an injection of Delalutin to stop false labor. The injection relaxed my uterus all right, but it also relaxed my baby’s heart. I carried her for two more weeks, waiting to go into labor naturally and knowing she would be stillborn. During that two weeks and after her birth not one personal friend, pastor or church staff came to visit me and my husband was the choir director. My only visitor was the wife of a man who worked with my husband in the Coast Guard. I will always remember her kindness in coming to visit me. She brought a tray of cookies or something like that. I don’t remember exactly what she brought, only that she came and she stayed and talked with me for some time. I don’t remember exactly what we talked about, but I remember that she came. I KNOW that my friends really cared and sorrowed with me, but she came. I’m not complaining about my friends because I know that it’s hard and you don’t know what to say, but I learned a great lesson that I can now use as a Rabbi’s wife. Just be there. Give them a hug, allow them to vent, bring a tray of cookies, but just GO. Be there for them.

    Reply
    • April 11, 2016 at 1:59 pm
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      Hi Pat, I cannot even imagine losing your first baby at 37 weeks and then waiting to deliver your little baby girl naturally. My heart aches for you but I think your message is a good reminder we do need to say something, do something, go visit people with losses like you. Cookies, hugs, and listening is critical. Your message gives me chills because I know a lot of people and myself need this message to help us know how to comfort those with a loss of a baby, family member or friend. May God bless you for sharing your thoughts to help all of us to help others. Hugs and love coming your way, Linda

      Reply
  • April 11, 2016 at 2:46 pm
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    Linda ,
    This was such a powerful post today. I appreciate your insight and honest feelings. The comments were very thought provoking for me. I have my regrets for not responding like I now wish I would have. I also remember helping and supporting in a manner that was a wonderful memory for me. I have people all around me where I could do more. Thank you for renewed motivation to be compassionate to those who carry heavy burdens. Everyone is blessed by the service and love rendered. I too have hand written notes from up to forty years ago from compassionate, thoughtful people. Thank you for taking time to share this.

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    • April 11, 2016 at 6:10 pm
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      Hi Carla, thank you so much for thoughts you shared with me today. I think we all help each other more than we realize. I love hearing you have hand written notes from up to forty years ago as well! In some ways, social media has taken those treasured notes away from all of us. I love hand written notes and I need to write more of them myself. Hugs! Linda

      Reply
  • April 11, 2016 at 7:09 pm
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    Hi Linda, I read your post today with more than the usual interest. My youngest brother only 58 years old has been diagnosed with cancer of the liver. It has spread + they say no hope. So to read something positive about how we as his family can help during the time he has left was a comfort. I will pass the list on to my family. Thanks for expressing your experience in a way that can bring direction to others. Connie

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    • April 12, 2016 at 7:36 am
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      Hi Connie, I’m so sorry to hear about your brother, he is so young!!! I will pray for you and your family. This is such a hard time to hear news like that, no hope. I do know that my friend Cinda loved getting letters and notes in the mail from people who could not personally come and visit her. It is such a tough time for everyone. May God bless you to know what you can do to help make his days a little easier. Hugs and love coming your way, Linda

      Reply
  • April 11, 2016 at 10:49 pm
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    Excellent post! Everyone needs to read this and follow your suggestions! You know, until someone is gone, there is still time to write that note. I know that the few days I spent with my mother before she passed, I really appreciated the visits from a few of my childhood friends – they made all the difference in the world to my dad and me.

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    • April 12, 2016 at 7:40 am
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      Hi Susan, I love your comment about having visits from your childhood friends coming by to comfort you, your mom and dad. I think everyone needs to hear this because it helps share ideas of what to do when we have these type of situations going on all around us. Hugs, Linda

      Reply
  • April 12, 2016 at 2:57 pm
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    What a beautiful article!! Linda, you can believe that your friend is reading your book from heaven. I wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t give you some nudges when you were writing it!!! Thanks for sharing something so special. Hugs to you.

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    • April 13, 2016 at 5:42 pm
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      Hi LaRene, I love that thought, I bet Cinda IS reading my book in heaven! Hugs, Linda

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  • April 24, 2016 at 8:53 pm
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    Hi Linda, I am a 22-year old graduate student studying clinical psychology to become a therapist. I read all of your posts and really appreciate what you do for others. This post was especially intense, because sometimes I am totally immersed in the stress of school and I forget all of the beautiful things in life that are happening around me, like my friends and family. I am a stressed therapist-in-training trying to help other people not feel stressed – haha. Anyway, thank you for this post and for reminding me that life isn’t just about “doing”, it’s about “being” in the moment and appreciating the life we have.

    Reply
    • April 25, 2016 at 8:34 am
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      Hi Lindsay, I love hearing about your schooling! I’m sure going to school is extremely stressful and I can only imagine the stress in the field you are training in. I think we all need a reminder to enjoy today….and it’s hard when we have deadlines to meet. I believe you will do very well in the field you have chosen. May God bless you in your work….Linda

      Reply

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