In terminal illness, loss begins before the person dies. They may begin to lose strength, eyesight, sharpness, and other abilities, depending on their illness. But this doesn’t mean you can’t spend quality time with a dying loved one.

The question is how do you spend it? How do you make a difference during their last days in a hospital or the hospicare care center?

Plan Your Visits

It is overwhelming to know you’ll be spending only a few days with a loved one. So it’s critical to make every moment count. Whether you’ll be sitting with an immediate family member or a beloved friend, first make sure that your affairs are in order.

Make arrangements with your family about routine tasks. For example, if the kids have to be taken to school, get someone to help. The everyday activities in your life should be handled so that your full attention is with the terminally ill.

Once you’ve squared away your affairs, check with the hospice or hospital what you can or can’t bring. You may want to bring a special dish, but what if your loved one isn’t able to eat? Information like this will help you manage what to bring.

Next, consider what comforts your loved one. Is it a type of flower, the scent of which they may associate with a happy memory? Bring them a bouquet of peonies. Is it a photo that may help them recall a remarkable time in their life? Gather up all of your vacation photos from that disastrous but fun time in Birmingham, AL.  Or maybe they love winning at poker? Organize a small poker game.

Do whatever sparks joy, and make them feel loved and cared for.

But quality time doesn’t have to filled with activities. A simple conversation or sitting quietly together could be meaningful time spent. And as you take in those moments, don’t forget to overlook closure.

Taking time to forgive and ask forgiveness

Woman with cancer reading a book while lying down

You don’t want to lose someone before you’ve resolved misunderstandings. This will leave you filled with regret.

Research reveals that forgiveness therapy improves psychological health. Forgiving someone, even if he did not ask for forgiveness, sets you free from bitterness. Asking for forgiveness frees you from guilt and remorse. Giving and receiving forgiveness brings healing to both parties. Even if it doesn’t heal the sick person, it may extend his or her life.

According to research, the remaining months or years a dying person’s left with are extra precious. Words spoken during this time will leave a lasting impact on the lives of people leave behind. Hospice advocate Ira Byock says during this time, a dying person and his family should speak words that express love, forgiveness, repentance, thankfulness, and letting go.

It’s not easy to go through the grief of anticipating a person’s passing away. But there is nothing compared to the joy and peace of spending these few of the most precious weeks or months creating joyful memories and, if necessary, resolving past issues through forgiveness.