Category Archives: End of life care

The Top Ten Things to Never Say……

When someone we love has had a death of someone close to them, we often do not know what to say to them. We want to offer comfort, and love. Our culture does not prepare us for the part of life….that is death. Here is a list of what NOT to say to someone who is healing from the loss of a loved one.

1. I know how you feel.

No, you don’t. No one knows the depth of my grief, but me. What I need from you is the truth. Say, ” I don’t how you are feeling, and I want to support you. Tell me about it.”

2. It will get better. Time heals all wounds.

Right now, in this present moment, I am hurting. Time stopped when he died. Just ask me ” How is it going today?”

3. Call if there is anything I can do.

I do not know what needs to be done. My life is a blur. You need to call me and say ” I want to bring dinner for you on Friday night.” ” We want to mow your grass on Saturday.”

4. It is God’s will.

How can this painful loss be God’s will? Where is He now? Please just remind me that you care, that God cares.” He is here for you and so am I.”

5. I will never forget the day my husband died….

Please…it is not that I do not care, I just can’t handle your grief and mine at this time. In time, I can hear your story. But, now I just need to tell mine. I may need to tell it over and over, that is how I will face the reality of his death.

6. You must get out and do things. Keep Busy.

Grief is hard work. You can not run from grief. You can grieve now, or you can grieve later, but, you are going to grieve. Take the time for it. Offer instead, ” When you want to, I would love to look at your picture albums so we can remember your life together. We can both cry if we need to. ”

7. You’ve got to go through his things…the sooner the better.

A close friend of mine offered this advice to me she said, ” Take your time. Make a list of some of the items that you want others to have, you will know when the time is right…and I will be there to help you.” And, she was right there every step of the way.

8. Oh now, don’t cry.

I am so sad, I do not want to make you uncomfortable, my heart is breaking. Everything makes me cry, a song, a memory, a smell, his favorite food. Just say ” Go ahead and cry. Cry and sob, and beat a pillow, we can go out in a field and you can scream if you need to….I brought a box of kleenex…so we can cry together.”

9. You are attractive, You will find someone else.

WHAT? I don’t want anyone else. I want him. All you need to say is, “It must be so difficult without him.”

10. He is not suffering anymore. He could have lingered longer.

He is gone. Understand that I did not want him to die. This is worse than him lingering. He was still here then.

Just hold my hand, just hold me. Let me tell you how I feel…. Don’t say anything. Just listen, Really listen.

That is what I need to heal my broken heart and soul. Someone to listen ….until I can find the strength to go on…


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Filed under End of life care, Healing, Honesty, Love

In memory of Alice

The dream begins…..

Years ago I was blessed to work in a nursing home with a patient named Alice.  She had been severely beaten by her husband with a baseball bat.  Alice was brain injured and for five years had been spoon fed baby food.She communicated with her thumb …up was yes…down was no.  She was very aware of EVERYTHING…she just could not speak.

Her guardian was Linda Andre, my dear friend.  Linda asked me to visit her in the nursing home to see if I had any ideas for her oral care as she had a lot of visible plaque, and maybe cavities.  Her caregivers were having trouble with brushing her teeth because of her gag reflex.

The day I met Alice, I was also a witness to her DNA form.  She was asked in the event of a heart attack would she want to be resuscitated.  SHE PUT HER THUMB UP!!!!  She had tears in her eyes…she wanted to live.

I vowed to help her have the fullest life possible at that point.   I began working with her and her nurses on how to help her brush her teeth.  I then brought in a Rota Dent for her oral care.   We worked on the skill of breathing through her nose to correct the gag reflex.

She made amazing progress!!!   I met with a team of her Doctors, Social workers, Speech therapists….and her huge advocate Linda Andre.  I presented the idea that she could eat REAL food and feed herself.  They all laughed out loud and said I just did not know about gag reflexes and that she would choke to death on real food.

I said I had worked with gag reflexes in my dental career ….everyday.  Alice was able to even bring her toothbrush to her own mouth and use it….we still did it for her as well…but she took great pride in her self care of her teeth. During the team meeting….they challenged me….they said … is lunch time now.  IF you really feel she can feed herself and eat real food….let’s see her do it!!!  Now.    I took the challenge and said Alice and I will meet you in the cafeteria.
I ran down the hall to Alice’s room.  She was in her wheel chair….I took her hand and said ” My friend….everything we have practiced with your toothbrush is going to give you an opportunity to have real food today.  I know you can do it.  We have to prove it to the team of professionals who take care of you….right now.”  Alice had not had REAL food in over 5 years.
She put up her little thumb….and lit up like a light bulb.  I ran her down the hall in her wheel chair…..we left skid marks….we were so excited.
They had a tray of food for her…..those surrounding her were expecting to see her fail…..she was only given a fork.   I coached her and said….it is just like a toothbrush…..hold it the same….she grabbed the fork….stabbed a huge strawberry….put it right into her mouth….chewed it up and swallowed perfectly!!!
Alice ate REAL food for the rest of her life.   A skill she learned from a toothbrush.
Alice you taught me much more…..than I ever taught you my friend.  Every human being deserves a chance to live life to the fullest…..however that is and whatever it means to them.

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Filed under End of life care