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What’s The Best Way To Prepare For Losing A Loved One?

Written by: Karen Gibson, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Watching my 90-year-old mom, the victim of vascular dementia, under hospice care has forced me to confront death. My previous encounters with depression and anxiety have taught me to embrace emotions I used to fear, instead of viewing them as an enemy to destroy. Many grief counselors or friends who have lost their parents remind me to spend as much time as I can with my mom during her last moments. Others suggest that I play music, profess my love for her, caress her, or watch for swelling in her hands and feet which is a sign that her time with us is coming to an end.

When my 19-year-old daughter expressed reluctance to visit my mom, part of me felt that it was my responsibility to make sure she visited her grandma. My 25-year-old made it her mission to visit my mom daily, spending the maximum amount of time visitors are allowed to stay at the hospital. We were told at first that each of us were limited to a daily thirty minute visit. I managed to persuade the director in charge of approving visitation to grant us an extra half hour. Then, I begged him to grant my daughter and I two visits per day. At first, my daughter was furious that our visits had to be so limited. Why couldn’t she take her dad’s time if he didn’t visit? Friends and family would express their anger, saying how ridiculous it was that all of us couldn’t visit her simultaneously. The harshest rule to accept was during my mom’s transition (her final hours), only two family members would be allowed to be by her bedside.

“You’re making me choose which two family members will be next to my mom when she dies?!” I cried, questioning this absurd rule. Part of me realized that I was lucky that we were allowed two family members since no family members could be present last year. Covid stole my 19-year-old’s senior prom, traditional graduation ceremony and Project Grad. Many families could not be present during births, deaths as well as the hundreds of weddings and celebrations that were cancelled.

Meditation and spending time contemplating whether I needed my daughters and husband with me when my mom chose to permanently leave us revealed the secret to preparing for the loss of a loved one. A dear friend shared that she believes our loved ones choose when they want to leave and we tend to make it all about us instead of our loved ones. This epiphany enlightened my soul. Why did I feel that all of us had to be near my mom when her life came to an end? Even if I convinced the director to give us unlimited visits, what if my mom chose to take her last breath when she was alone?

The director shared that in his thirty years of being in the hospice field, he believes that most loved ones wait until they are alone to take their last breath. They do not want their death to be witnessed. Whether or not this is actually the dying one’s intention may not be known, but part of me wonders if he’s right. He was at both of his parents’ bedside during their last days. One passed away when he went home to take a shower before coming back to the hospital. The other passed away when he took a quick bathroom break. My grandfather died when my mom and I left the hospital to get some rest. My father, his youngest child, was the only one in the room when he took his last breath.

My conclusion is that the best way to access peace during my mom’s hospice journey is to release the “shoulds.” I told my youngest that it was okay if she didn’t want to visit her grandma. She would say she had a sore stomach or headache when I invited her to come to the hospital. There are no rules in order to accept death. But, the one rule I’ve learned to follow that brings me peace is to do whatever my heart leads me to do. Sometimes working with my students as a private tutor, accepting an invitation to be a part of the “United not Divided” forum on a local television station or writing this article brings me a slice of peace. Some may judge me for not dedicating every moment to be by my mom’s side. Others suggest I demand more time and remind the hospital staff that their rules are ridiculous. One of the rules that caused emotional turmoil is being told that only one person could visit at a time. I have a feeling this is why my youngest daughter doesn’t want to visit her grandma. She craves company and doesn’t want to be alone with her grandma. Letting go of what we can’t control is easier said than done.

However, as I ride this emotional rollercoaster of pending death, I feel I’ve discovered the answer to peacefully accepting my mom’s fate. Choosing what brings me peace in the present moment is the best way to prepare for losing a loved one. I’m learning to stop following the endless suggestions that are said with the best intentions. I’m releasing guilt when I choose to engage in activities (business or personal) that cause me to spend time away from my mom. I know deep in my heart that she wouldn’t want me to carry this unnecessary guilt of following the “shoulds.” If you are facing the imminent death of a loved one, take several deep breaths, and listen to your heart. Let go of what you feel you should do, and just choose whatever brings you peace. It might be as simple as treating yourself to a special dessert or taking a much needed nap to replenish your energy. We all know how emotionally draining it is to endure overwhelm, especially during a crisis. Just remember that the best way to prepare for losing loved ones is to accept that you may be losing their physical presence in your life, but they will always remain in your heart.

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Karen Gibson, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine Karen is the founder of "Letting Go with Aloha," offering coaching for overwhelmed parents and those in parenting roles who want to parent with peace instead of pain. As a former special education teacher, she also founded Brain Builders, a private tutoring business whose mission is to enhance students' mental and emotional potential. She is the author of "Mama's Gotta Let Go: How to Let Go Without Losing Your Sanity,” available on Amazon, as well as “100 Parenting Tips Inspired by the Pandemic,” published in March 2021 by Balboa Press.



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