..Garnette Arledge..

When a Loved One is Dying

How can you provide comfort, support and acceptance for your friend? By reading the following excerpts from a book by Garnette Arledge: On Angel's Eve.

Tips for Graced Conversation
In the tension of the dying process, sometimes starting a simple conversation with a loved one can be stressful. We don't want to say the wrong thing; we don't want to use any upsetting words; we don't want to appear too happy or too sad. But often, dying loved ones want to connect, tell stories, reveal truths, laugh a little, and cry a little. Conversation has the power to realize such desires. It is so very important to talk. If you find yourself feeling a little anxious or awkward at the bedside, follow these pointers for conducting an effective conversation with your loved one.

  • Center yourself in calmness.
  • Offer conversation triggers: past and future hopes and dreams; media likes and dislikes (movies; talk shows; headlines; celebrities); financial planning; family rituals, such as weddings and especially funerals; pets; environmental concerns such as global warming.
  • Respect your loved one's denial; don't push. But avoid practicing denial yourself.
  • Note and respect generational and cultural gaps.
  • Hold your attention like and open cup; wait for filling.
  • Ask clarifying questions; carefully use repetition and reframing.
  • When you are discussing dying, stay gently focused on the topic of dying well.
  • Pay attention to body language.
  • Rely on your innate nurturing tone of voice.
  • Listen contemplatively with all five senses.
  • Practice with a friend first.
  • Leave your agenda and our opposing opinions on the back burner.
  • Enjoy the silence.
  • ...After all the words, after the "unsayable" has been spoken, your greatest gift may well to linger in companionable silence.

    Why? As we become more effective listeners, we eventually spend less energy on the mechanics of the conversation. Let go of worry about "saying the right thing," for in listening, as well as providing encouraging body language and appropriate eye contact, your whole being offers welcome. You are saying, "With me, you can be safe to talk, even to get into the landscape of language about death and dying."

    As you become present to the other's communication methods, it may well be that a new depth in your relationship grows, even in the last months and days of your time together. Validating each other, you come to companionable silence, at ease and at peace.


    There is something at the core of the deepest listening to another; we call it compassion. This kind of love sees the weaknesses of another and wraps that person in care so powerfully that the warmth of it heals wounds, inspires reconciliation, and helps close the gaps of separation. All of this can be achieved without following a protocol or speaking a word. You are capable of such love. Yes, you are capable of such love if you remain calm and allow your love to deepen.

    Be grateful for such capacity and let it come into being. This is your opportunity now, as you sit beside the one who is teaching you how to die well. You may be teaching that loved one how to die in the beautiful dance of life, too.

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    For more information go to www.garnettearledge.com.