We plan to try and hold a seminar for Valley Visitors and everyone else who is interested once every six months on a subject relevant to pastoral care for people in our community. The aim is to improve constantly the level of our pastoral care by getting the most experienced experts in different fields to come and speak to us.
Dr. David Butler a retired palliative care consultant came to give us the first in our series of Valley Visitors Seminars at Southwood House Itchen Abbas last Wednesday night 15th May 2019. The evening was open to all Valley Visitors, but also to all others in Itchen Valley Parish with an interest in the subject, whether church goers or not.
David spoke about ‘Dying Well’ drawing both from the book by that name by John Wyatt
and also from his own teaching to medical students and to others. He addressed a number of very important issues. There were about 20 of us there both Valley Visitors and other people with an interest in the subject.
David’s slides follow:
Please see David Butlers list of tips for speaking to dying people:
Some tips for talking to dying friends
Here are some thoughts, based on experience and research. Not all are appropriate to every situation. Much of this may be obvious to you.
You may not agree with them all, but I hope you find something useful in them
Give the gift of Presence
What you do together depends on how they are. Doing stuff together if they have the energy, or even just sitting over a cup of coffee. You don’t have to be talking about the meaning of life
But also respect their need for alone time. Ask what they want now (which may be different from what they want tomorrow)
Offer practical help
Giving them lifts, shopping, preparing food, housework…just ask what would help.
Needs will change over time, so keep asking.
Other than being helpful in itself, this gives opportunities for conversations
Keeping in touch
Text and email are the least demanding on the friend. Also phoning, dropping in…it really depends on what is practical and what they prefer.
The fact that they don’t respond, or respond negatively, today, doesn’t mean that they won’t want your help tomorrow.
Do not let them feel abandoned.
Be a good listener
They may or may not want to talk about illness, death, and the future
Be sensitive to their leads
Don’t worry much about what you will say; concentrate on listening to their words
Be prepared to talk about difficult areas
Picking up your friend’s visual and verbal cues is key.
Even if they don’t want to talk about difficult areas now, knowing that you are prepared to do this gives them permission to open up in future
Most people who are dying know they are dying.
Acknowledge fears, don’t brush them off with “reassurance” (“things will be fine”)
Be prepared to talk about trivia
This may be a good start anyway.
But make sure that this is what the person wants, rather than them trying to spare you discomfort
Some helpful questions/comments
If the friend says something suggesting they want to talk about something major:
“Is this something you want to talk about?”/ “Would you like to say more about that?”
“I’m not sure I know what you mean”
Then listen carefully
Learn about your friend’s illness
If they are happy to talk, the friend is the best resource here.
Also inform yourself on line, or by talking to others who know about it; not so that you can give your friend expert advice, but to understand their illness better.
Find out a bit more about the last stages of life
It’s OK to be emotional
Tears and expressing you own sadness can help your friend express theirs
Conveys caring. Anything from a hand on the shoulder/arm/hand or a full hug (take care about causing pain by the latter)
Becomes increasingly important when they are too tired to talk much (or at all)
For example: “I’ve been feeling sorry about something that happened between us. I know I had a part in it and I’d like to apologize for it.” After describing the issue or incident in simple terms, say, “Please forgive me.”
Forget “Love Story”; love does notmean never having to say you’re sorry!
This may prepare for a reciprocal feeling on your friend’s behalf; if they are not ready for this, you need to do your best to forgive the friend in your heart; seek help.
For what they’ve done and been for you. Our sense of legacy becomes increasingly important as we near death.
Rabbi Harold Kushner writes: “I am convinced that it is not the fear of death, of our lives ending, that haunts our sleep so much as the fear… that as far as the world is concerned, we might as well never have lived.”
Say “I love you” to people who you love
Even if you’ve never done it before; it matters more now than any other time
Be prepared to talk about the Hope that you have
Make sure that non-Christian friends are aware that you are a Christian, then be prepared to answer questions. If wanted, get some expert help
Get support for yourself
Someone (friend, church) who can listen to you, & give advice. Get enough rest.
If there is too much for you to manage, involve other friends in providing support for your dying friend. Realise your limitations.
Pray for your friend and their family, ideally with others.
Let your friend know you are doing this: it will usually be appreciated if it is part of a “caring package”, less so as an isolated act.
Expressing anger to God is biblical
As they near the end
Assume they can hear you, keep talking… and touching. Presence still matters, and can give family and carers a break.
- http://www.hospicenet.org/html/help_a_friend.html(no longer available)
Thank you so much to David for his excellent presentation and also to Lavinia and Nick for their hospitality at Southwood House and to everyone who brought food for the evening.