What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

The current, and not-so-short-lived Covid-19 virus has created new challenges for us when we want to be at the bedside of our dying loved one. Maybe our visits are restricted due to the pandemic, work schedules, or geography. How do we connect with our loved one when we can’t be at the bedside? How do we honor our person while they are dying, or if we missed their last moments?

First of all, take a deep breath. Say their name. Hold that breath and hold them close to your heart. That’s a good beginning! With a little creativity, you can set aside a little space to help you feel connected to your loved one.

Create a small altar in your home or yard. This could be a table, a tray, or a part of your garden – designate it as a sacred space. Add little mementos, flowers, candles, a scarf, even a rock that reminds you of your special person. Light the candle, say a little prayer or meditate for awhile. Keep the altar in your home or yard and take a moment daily to spend time with your memories.

Play their favorite music, learn their favorite song or hymn.

Find a photo of your person, set it on the table and have a cup of coffee with them. Talk to them. Cry, laugh, tell stories, share your secrets – this is your time.

Cook or order out their favorite meal or food. You can do this alone or share a meal over the miles by Zoom or FaceTime. If you and your friends or family are far-flung across the globe, pick a date and cook their favorite recipe. Send photos to each other of your finished dishes.

Find a special date (maybe their birthday) and wear their favorite color.

If the date/time of day they died is hard for you, try to think of it as a nudge from them and they are sending you a message that all is well.

Collect their favorite book titles or quotes on pieces of paper. Add them to a scrapbook, use them as bookmarks, or put them in a fireproof container and safely burn them. Once the ashes have cooled, add them to your garden.

Tie colorful ribbons on a tree in your yard. Write their name, a memory, or your thoughts. As the ribbons blow in the breeze, they will be a colorful reminder of your sweet times together. (I did this with a tree in our yard and it gets more colorful as I am reminded of more loved ones from my past.)

Create a rock garden and write special words or thoughts on a few of the rocks. Keep adding to the collection. Maybe include a small plant or two amid the rocks.

You might have one of their old flannel shirts or concert teeshirts. Wear it to feel them close to you, or make the shirt into a pillow and hold onto it on those days when you need a hug from them.

Bring muffins or cookies to the nurses who were at their side in the hospital or facility. It feels good to connect with those who were caring for your person. Even a simple thank-you note to the staff or hospice team can make you feel closer to your loved one.

Share their favorite hankies or scarves with their close friends. Bonus…they are inexpensive to mail!

If they had a favorite server in a restaurant and you live nearby, get a meal and leave a tip for them in the name of your person.

Find a way to celebrate your loved one in a way that touches your heart. You can be close to their spirit even when you are miles (or a pandemic) away.

Published by susandoulamn

As an end of life doula, I walk alongside you during this sacred time, helping you create a peaceful space for your final journey.

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