Dying and bereavement
When a family member is terminally ill, everyone deals with that information in different ways, that includes the person themselves. The Kubler-Ross model has 5 stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance. These stages can work for all parties involved.
Family members can therefore choose to be very involved or not at all and this difference of grieving process has an impact on family relations, at an already difficult time.
Some people are afraid of dying and don’t want to do it alone, they will hang onto life for as long as they can. Others accept it and at the end willingly go there, rather than cling to life. Some terminally ill people don’t want their family to witness their death, they consider it personal. So for family’s who are on a 24 hour vigil, the 5 minutes in which they leave the bedside to have a comfort break will be the 5 minutes that person chooses to pass away. Others want their family there, will white knuckle the hands of a loved one, rather than let go and feel alone. Either situation has its emotional impact on all parties.
Some family members will communicate with the others that turn up and let them know that if there is anything they can do to help, they will, yet when asked, are always busy with something more important. They just can’t deal with facing the situation.
Some family members want to be involved with everything, do as much as they can, which might be more than is required and might be an invasion of the privacy of the dying person.
So what is the answer? There is no “one” answer and there is no “right” answer. Everyone deals with death and grief in their own way. It is important to remember that, however anyone else deals with it, they might not understand how you do and vice versa. So just give everyone a bit of slack.
When in doubt, imagine yourself in a week, a year and a decade and do the thing that means that you won’t have regrets, whatever that is. And whatever you choose, know that you are not the only person in the world that has felt that, grief is universal, even if you feel alone in the moment.