When someone close to us dies, it turns our world upside down. Whether it’s a friend, a coworker, or a neighborhood acquaintance, death often evokes upsetting emotions. These emotions can go to the extreme when it’s a parent’s death you are facing. As our parents reach the end of their life, it can be excruciatingly difficult for us to deal with the fact that their days are numbered. Why is that?
Facing The Reality Of Death
The death of both of my parents was long and drawn out. I accompanied both of them in the final stage of their journey, and I have other family members who are also getting close to the end. In my community, I have known and loved many people who passed away. You will have to face and deal with death when you are involved in the lives of others.
To go even further, the life insurance business has exposed me to death over and over again. Isn’t that the purpose of life insurance – to make sure your loved ones receive benefits when you die? Once you have been in the field long enough, you can’t help but get involved in processing claims and often end up creating close relationships with some of your clients.
Every death hurts, some more than others. The death of a close relative can be devastating, while others may be less painful, but nonetheless sad. As I continuously work to process both the small and significant traumas, I’m attempting to identify what I have learned so I can handle the next one a bit better. I have had the good fortune of getting my hands on beneficial books, both practical and spiritual, and have a network of friends and advisers who offer valuable guidance. These resources have assisted me in forming a perspective that, as it turns out, helps me deal not only with death but with life as well.
Here are three lessons I have learned that I want to share with you:
1. Life Is Precious
Both my mother and my father fought hard to get something out of their last days. They knew the end was near but still wanted to make their last bit of life worthwhile and meaningful. They wanted to be surrounded by loved ones, even if just for a few minutes, and savored the last sips of their favorite tea or enjoyed the final strains of their preferred music. But they also desired to be left alone to make their final preparations.
Their actions taught me that no matter what stage of life you are in, you can’t give up. Even if you are nearing the end, you should desire to go out with a warm spot in your heart and a smile on your face. Our job is to gift our parents with these humble yet significant things that make all the difference in the world: the moments of pleasure, small joys, or peaceful solitude. They may not seem like much, but they mean everything to those who are dying. When we focus on how precious each moment of life is, it helps us to keep a smile on our face too, even amidst our tears of grief.
2. Fight The Good Fight For Them
When people are incapacitated due to illness or injury, they become dependent on others for their care and welfare. This can be an incredibly humbling and disheartening time for those in this position, so you need to step up and be an advocate for their needs. Many resources are available, including doctors and nurses, home healthcare aides, and facilities such as nursing homes, adult day care centers, and dialysis centers.
Like every other business, the healthcare industry includes the good, the bad, and the ugly, especially when it comes to dealing with seniors. We have capable doctors and poor doctors, great aides but also inept or even downright abusive caretakers. I became personally involved in making sure my parents received the proper care and I continue to do so today for other family members who are ailing. Doing my part was and is cathartic. While it’s challenging to know what people need when they are dying, don’t just be a bystander. Find tasks to complete that will help them retain their dignity.
3. It’s Not About You
In a time of intense emotions, it’s easy to take things personally or become too invested in issues that shouldn’t be taking up your time and energy. If you are on the front lines of your parents’ care, you are often exposed to more of their pain and suffering, which can stir up your own feelings of remorse, guilt, empathy, or denial.
It’s easy to take out your emotions on the various care providers you come in contact with throughout the ordeal. The slightest mistake or act of neglect can seem like the crime of the century. You may become angry when the medication arrives thirty minutes late or when a nurse acts too rough.
The solution is not an easy one, though. You need to look inside and work on yourself, processing and filtering your own feelings so you can control and channel the whirlpool of emotions inside of you. Good caregivers also deal with some level of grief in this situations, and the best reaction for everyone involved is to step back, let go, and never forget the main purpose: doing what’s best for the patient. If we can be strong enough to let go, then your parent will feel the freedom to let go when it’s time for them to take their last breath.
These are heavy issues, but unfortunately, they are a fact of life. The older we get, the more likely it is that we will face this situation, so it’s wise to prepare yourself now and obtain the right perspective for those difficult days. Have you seen these principles in action? Do you have any other tips or advice that helped you through a similar situation? I’d love to hear your stories.