It might happen to you
Moments that determine the course of your life’s path.
Those moments just after the birth of your child or just during a conversation
Whatever the reason, the paediatrician is of the opinion after collegial consultation that your new-born child does not have long to live and gives advice not to send birth cards to family and friends. How do you cope with this as brand-new parents?
Dad, why do I always have to take those pills and need to check at the hospital every time? How do you explain to your eight-year-old daughter that this is necessary to keep her body in good condition because her life expectancy is so short? How does your daughter deal with the fact that she has not been granted a long life in this world?
Those moments where dying is eminent
We have found bone cancer that is at an advanced stage. We expect you may have another 3 months. What goes through you when you get such a message? How do you deal with this? How do you explain that to your partner and your family? How does your partner cope with such a message… and your family?
Dad, do you want to help me, I’m so tired… no matter how much I want to stay with you, I do not have the energy anymore. How do you answer your daughter’s question of 21 years young who has given everything she possibly could give and has arrived at point on her life’s path where she really can’t go any further? And how do you help her while you yourself… are deeply hurt and grieving because you can feel and see that she is deteriorating fast and will die soon.
Those moments where you get a serious warning
You are dreaming a few times in a row that if you do not go to the doctor you’ll die soon. How do you deal with such dreams? Do you just ignore the dream as pertinent crap… or are you going to see the doctor?
You consult a specialist … and at the end of the consult you are told that it would be a good idea to prepare for the worst. How do you deal with the fact that the risk of unwanted side effects or that you may even die during surgery, are highly probable?
And then the questions keep coming
And then the questions keep arriving… there seems to be no end of these. Questions you don’t know the answers to. Questions where you have no idea how to act upon.
How do you deal with the fact that your life suddenly seems to be so much shorter than you thought it would be? How do you go about the fact that your life suddenly took a very different direction than you expected? You still want to do so much in your life, but your body simply can’t anymore. How does your family cope with this? And your friends, how do they deal with it? How do you support each other? Do you get support? Who supports who?
So, who supports each other? And how?
You just can’t offer support
When I think of my loved ones, I am there for them when they run into emotional issues with which their life suddenly seems so much more complicated? Does that mean I will be there for them spontaneously? On the contrary, they need to ask for support. They should have the need that I’m there for them. It also means that, as a positive answer to their request, I need to take up my commitment to the full 100%. After all, they should’ve the confidence that whatever happens, I’m there… always!
Not everyone understands what it means to offer help
People who offer their help with the best intentions often have no idea what it does mean for them; how they can help and above all continue to give support and what it takes of (emotional) energy to everyone. Energy the other one may have less, and less … and less … and less.
If you’re willing to be there for the other person, you should be able to establish empathy and you should be able to understand what that other person is experiencing, what the other feels. That’s easily said but certainly not easily done when you’ve never experienced what the other is going through now… certainly when you’re each other’s partner. It’s demanding when your partner is dying. Much is asked of you which you should be able to offer… to keep on offering… independent on how hard that may be. You must keep going for the full 100%… with all your heart.
You should be able to discuss tough topics with each other
You should be able to discuss issues about life and death, when the other wants to do so. Issues like is there a god and if so, who is that, is there a heaven and a hell, is there life after death… issues you can perceive from different points of view depending on your faith and culture. What is important in any case is that you should not reject the other because he or she thinks or feels differently than you do. After all, that’s personal for everyone!
Don’t act inhuman
As an outsider you may not respond lightly to the situation (e.g. that it isn’t too bad, I you know how you are feeling, my aunt had a similar disease… much worse then you though…). Something that is very certain, is that you, as an outsider, have not the slightest idea what the other person is struggling with, what the other person is feeling and how much pain or sadness that can give him or her. In short, when the other person says that he or she is in pain, is afraid, or doesn’t know what to do … then it that’s the case!
Don’t be cruel
Don’t be cruel to the other when you don’t accept, are not willing to accept or even deny that the other is seriously ill when the other says so. It’s not always the case that you can see on the outside that someone is serious ill. When the other indicates that he or she is seriously ill, he or she apparently wants to talk about it with you. That does not always mean that you want to do so too… maybe you do not know how to deal with it… or just because you’re afraid to talk about it. That isn’t necessarily bad, but in order to be honest with the other… and with yourself… tell why you do not discuss this at that moment. In that case you create clarity.
Of course, you can make fun together
Of course, you can laugh, make jokes together, make each other happy so you can create and collect a diamond. A diamond means for me a moment of happiness, of warmth, of joy, of love, of friendship. When I can create or collect a diamond during the day, I consider that day a great day.
Answers are not always available
Not all questions can be answered… so don’t make up answers… be honest to each other. That’s not always easy though, because you may get the feeling that you let the other down… but that’s not the case… your honesty and being there for other sits at a much higher plan than not being able to answer the question.
In matters of life and death, self-interest may look around the corner
The person who is dying may finds it difficult enough for him or herself. His or her opinion or faith that there may be life after death plays a major role in this. Faith and cultural backgrounds are important factors in our daily life and can be even the driving force for wars. But at that moment, the moment you are sitting with the dying person, your faith and your cultural background are not relevant… those of dying one are!
Just like the person who is dying, the loved ones who are remaining have difficult times! It is my opinion that these dear ones, if they don’t do so already, should put aside their own interests about the dying person. Don’t come up with comments like he or she should make all the effort and should try to recover… to be healthy again. Why would you ask such a thing? Because you can’t live without the other? All options were already examined by the dying because he or she knew somehow that he or she was going to die.
Give (eventually) the dying permission to go Home. Personally, I experienced what it means for the dying when you give permission to leave… permission to go Home. I will never forget the moment I saw my daughter with a radiant smile on her face when she died.
I can add many more points to above list, but it’s in my opinion that the following points are the most important ones:
If you’re willing to be there for the other person, you should be able to establish empathy and you should be able to understand what that other person is experiencing, what the other feels. That’s far from simple, in particularly when you’ve never experienced what the other is going through at that moment.
That is even more applicable when you are each other’s partner. Especially when one you are the one that stays. You have not asked for it, but you as a partner are asked to fulfill your vow to the other… “Until death follows.” You must be able to do that… determined… however demanding that is. You must keep going with… with your courage high… for the full 100%. And as a partner you do that anyway… that’s quite ordinary, isn’t it?
Whatever happens in your life, there are always forces that help you further. It may not be the way you want to, but they will help you with whatever puzzles you encounter on your life’s path. You shouldn’t be afraid to ask though!