The Final Days

By Julia Price

October 8, 2012 5 min read

It's normal to wish that the people you love will live forever. While preparing for the loss of a spouse, all different types of emotions are sure to overwhelm you as you realize it's time to let go. You're worried about how to manage your own feelings, but you also are trying to take care of your partner as he or she is facing his or her final days.

Just as communication has been a crucial element to your partnership throughout your lives together, it's important to share your feelings with each other through this difficult time. How is your spouse feeling? Scared? Nervous? Angry? Ask questions, and if your loved one wants to talk, be there to listen. However, if your spouse doesn't want to say anything, allow him/her to be silent. You can share your own fears and thoughts, as well; both of you should create a space of openness where you can listen to each other's concerns and provide comfort. Say "I love you" often, and let him/her know he/she will be missed.

Whether you're in your home, a hospice facility, a hospital or another family member's home, you want to create a comforting environment. Surround your spouse's bed with things that make him/her happy -- photos of the two of you, photos of your family and friends, and some pictures of your partner as a child or any other shots of major accomplishments in his/her life that have been photographed. Find all of the daily comforts that he/she enjoys, such as a fleece blanket. If your spouse loves the color red, fill the room with it. It's a helpful way to make you feel more in control of a situation over which you have no power, and these action steps are also a good activity to share with other family members who are coping with the loss preparation, as well.

Make sure that family and friends are well-informed with what's going on with your loved one's health. Invite them to visit, and encourage them to relive happy memories that they have shared together. You all can spend hours together laughing over the "good old days," and it's amazing how powerful and transforming laughter really can be. If your spouse is in poor condition, prepare the younger children in the family before their visit so they have a better idea of what to expect. Also, talk to the kids about death so they have some understanding as to what is happening, as much as their young age allows them to make sense of it all. But also remember that your spouse's requests are your priority, so if he/she is tired of visiting hours, wait for his/her signal, and be sure to allow some breathing room when needed.

As far as burial and funeral logistics go, this can be a tricky topic. Some people are extremely open about their requests for what they want to follow their passing away, whereas others prefer not to talk about it. Seeing as you probably know your spouse better than anyone else in the world, you most likely have had a conversation about his/her preferences before. You could either bring them up yourself or, if you're worried about seeming insensitive, have another family member ask instead. You should ask in a way that shows you are there to make this easier -- for example, "Is there anything you'd like me to do, or are there any preparations I can make to help us keep your memory and spirit alive?" You also want to ensure that all of your legal affairs are in order. Perhaps you could ask friends and family who have experienced a loss to explain some of the financial situations they had to deal with, especially the ones they didn't expect -- for example, estate taxes.

But overall, remember to enjoy every last second with your spouse. That's the most important thing. These are your final moments together; this is your chance to create more new memories. Savor every last laugh and touch, and study your loved one's face as if it were the first time you'd seen it. Try not to spend your final days in fear, anticipating the sadness that you will feel when your spouse is gone; instead, enjoy all of the little things about that person that made you fall in love in the first place. Tell your spouse everything you've always wanted to say now. And remember that just because someone is no longer there doesn't mean you ever have to stop loving that person.

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