Activities For The Dying

Some suggestions to help you and your loved get the most out of his or her final days.

How can family and friends mark the final months, weeks and days, and extract the most they can from the time that remains with their dying loved one? Some people will just want to spend time together talking, or simply being with the dying person. But some might find it helpful and rewarding to work on some of the following activities.

Write A Journal Together

Get a special book with blank pages. Together, write down family stories, recollections, and thoughts about your time together. You can add pressed flowers, photos, even small mementos, anything that will help you memorialize the life that is passing.

Organize Family Photos

Get out the photo albums and all those pictures you haven’t gotten around to putting in the books. You might want to select favorites to copy or put in a special album. You’ll probably tell stories about the photos while you’re working with them. Write them down and add captions or small notes next to each photo. As they get older, younger children will appreciate this book when they learn about your family’s history, and you will enjoy recapturing memories.

Put Together A Collection Of Favorite Things

Are there special recipes, books, movies, or collectibles the dying person loves? Clear a special area for them, and organize them together. Add notes to any books or recipes to keep a record of your memories about the collection. Put collectibles, such small souvenirs from trips, seashells, or handicrafts in a special shadow box.

Plant A Memory Garden

Make a living memorial: plant a tree or garden. Together, you can choose the plants you will use and where they will go. As the plants grow each year, you will be reminded of your loved one.

Get A Pet

Having a new puppy, kitten, or even fish in the house may cheer the person who is dying. You can pick the pet together, and share in the happiness and humor the pet can bring. When your loved one is gone, you will have the pet as a companion, someone who will comfort you and ask no questions. (Be sure to talk with the doctor first; some people may be too frail or ill to be around a pet, and there are also allergic and immune concerns that could make being around animals ill-advised.)

Get Out Of The House

Depending on health and strength, getting out of the house for a meal, or short trip can often be therapeutic. Dying people often feel a loss of self during the dying process as illness grabs more and more attention. Getting out to a favorite place can take the focus off the illness for a while. (Again, you’ll want to check with the doctor first to make sure this is okay.)

Reprinted from “Activities for the Dying,” by Ann Villet-Lagomarsino. Educational Broadcasting Corporation/Public Affairs Television, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

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