Dear June: When a Loved One Is Dying

By June Kellum
June Kellum
June Kellum
June Kellum is a married mother of three and longtime Epoch Times journalist covering family, relationships, and health topics.
July 26, 2021 Updated: July 27, 2021

Dear June,

I have a dying wife. Like many people this happens to, I am broken-hearted over this. She has many health issues and at 71 she could make a difference, but won’t. She eats sugar in all forms and will not stop. I don’t help matters because I buy it for her so she won’t blow a fuse. The fuse is the issue. She wants to die and I can’t stop it. I am 76 and although diabetic, I have good control and great labs. I try to stay calm and turn a blind eye to the name-calling. I need a tool of advice to cope.

Sincerely,

Gary R

Dear Gary,

I can understand your heartbreak. Watching some we love suffer is so hard, especially when you are their full-time caregiver, which it sounds like you are.

When a loved one is dying, it is most important to give them dignity, ease their pain and suffering as best we can, and seek solace.

I think you are right to turn a blind eye to the name-calling. It is a reflection of her pain and very probably also fear. I would guess the sugar consumption also stems from the same discomfort and is her coping tool. So my suggestion is to focus on what I mentioned above and in doing so, the issues with temper and sugar should naturally become less of a stress point.

Solace

Let’s start with solace for you. If you are not already doing so, take care of yourself. Exercise, time in nature, reading, visiting friends and family, whatever it is that allows you to relax and temporarily escape the challenges.

For your peace of mind, I would let go of concern for her physical health and instead focus on her emotional and even spiritual well-being. I say this because it sounds like your concern for her physical health is causing you pain but it is not something you can control.

So I think it is fine in this instance then, yes, even if sweets are not healthy and even if they are making her feel physically worse.

I realize this may seem counterintuitive because sweets are not healthy and probably making her feel worse physically, so let me explain more. In most cases, we should do our utmost to help our loved ones be healthy in body as this is certainly part of caring for someone. But the approach of death is a special chapter of life when it becomes more important to focus on their heart and soul.

When you say she wants to die and you can’t stop it, I hear a husband’s sadness that he cannot protect and shelter his wife from hardship—something you may well have been able to do throughout the course of your life together. But you can still be her rock.

To do this, I would start by accepting her as she is, even her wish for death. It might help you to consider this: While it is important to take care of ourselves in the hope that we can avoid illness and prolong our lives, there is also the truth that death is ultimately beyond our control.

I know people who can sense when a baby is coming and some can sense when death approaches, and perhaps this is the case for your wife. So it may not be that she has given up on life, but that she is preparing for what is to come and is struggling with this preparation.

At every stage of life, we have inner work to do. As the body weakens, this inward work becomes important. As the caregiver, your question might be: “How can I best support her through this phase?”

Part of the answer includes letting her know that you are willing to listen if she wishes to talk about what is going on inside, about her feelings about death.

Your wife may not wish to talk, and perhaps the cookies serve to keep fear and helplessness at bay and she does not feel strong enough to face them. So again, you can be her rock, loving and supporting her decisions amidst her pain.

Ease Pain and Suffering

In thinking about your question, I watched a 2015 TED Talk, “What Really Matters at the End of Life,” given by a palliative care physician who said that baking cookies was one of the primary interventions at the hospice center he was then directing. He advocated bringing as much sensorial delight as possible to those in hospice care, moments of relief so they can briefly feel the sweetness of life.

So on that note, you could even buy your wife her favorite cookies. If you want to take it a step further, serve them on a nice plate with some flowers alongside. Or maybe surprise her with a new kind of cookie you think she might like.

And consider other ways to bring sweetness and moments of respite into her life. Some ideas are to cook her favorite foods, play her favorite music, read aloud to her poems, jokes, news, good literature—whatever she finds enjoyable. Or look at old photos and go down memory lane together.

And if the situation permits, does she have any last wishes to see someone or visit somewhere?

Dignity

Let her have as much independence as possible and when you need to care for her, do so with respect and even reverence.

Some practical ideas to uphold dignity are to try to keep her living area (and her when the time comes) as clean as possible. Buy fresh flowers if and when the budget allows; see if she would enjoy getting her hair and nails done. Having a body and home well cared for can help calm the heart.

And having a calm heart, peace of mind, and an uplifted spirit are, in my mind, the essence of dignity.

In closing, I would like to share a couple of thoughts. First, in researching your question I discovered that there are a great number of books written to help the dying process; I don’t have one in particular to recommend, but perhaps among your circle of friends, or even your wife’s medical team, someone will know of one that is right for you.

Secondly, there are many stories of people who have been resuscitated after having been declared clinically dead, and a common theme in their account of the experience is that their consciousness remained, sometimes outside the body. An image I heard in a poem when I was young is that our human body is akin to a set of clothes put on by our spirit or soul. When the clothes are worn out they are laid aside and the spirit is then arrayed in new garb.

But until your wife is called to her next chapter, I hope this one can be full and rich in love for both of you.

Sincerely,
June

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Do you have a family or relationship question for our advice columnist, Dear June? Send it to DearJune@EpochTimes.com or Attn: Dear June, The Epoch Times, 229 W. 28th St., Floor 7, New York, NY 10001.

June Kellum is a married mother of three and longtime Epoch Times journalist covering family, relationships, and health topics.

June Kellum
June Kellum
June Kellum is a married mother of three and longtime Epoch Times journalist covering family, relationships, and health topics.