7 ways to Support End of life Mysteries: Practices for End of Life Caregivers

Acknowledging Mysteries and Validating Unexplainable Events at End of Life.   Most caregivers attending at end of life bear witness to stories of mysterious and unexplainable events that happen around the dying process.

Recently I heard this story from a caregiver: “I was with an elderly nursing home resident when she died. She hadn’t had her eyes open or spoke in about a week and all of a sudden she opened her eyes, smiled, and said in a very clear excited voice, “Oh, Winston. You’re here. You’re okay.  Yes, Yes, I’m coming Winston.” And then she turned to me and said,  “Tell my family that Winston and Mom are okay.”

The caregiver said that she then closed her eyes and died.  The caregiver admitted her concern about telling this story to the family and nursing home staff, thinking they would judge the elder as being deluded at the moment of death. But she followed her intuition and told the story to the elder’s family. In doing this the caregiver discovered that Winston was the elder’s younger brother who died in a fire in the arms of her mother over 30 years ago. The family told the caregiver how comforted they were to know the elder had seen her deceased mother and brother before she died. That she had always suffered because she did not get to tell them goodbye. This gave them all a feeling of peace and relief and strengthened the caregiver’s trust in her intuition, even though at the time of the event, she did not know the meaning of the elder’s last words

 Stories of meeting or seeing deceased loved ones is commonplace at End of Life. People in all roles, genders, social classes, cultures, religions and ages report experiences they cannot explain around the dying time. Most of these reports have a feeling of awe and mystery. They deserve our respect. They are stories that deserve to be shared and acknowledged.

7 Ways to Support the Unexplainable events surrounding end of life: What we can do?

  1. Know that your energy and presence is always felt and your voice is heard. Your attitude and emotional state is always being communicated. Be respectful with your words and actions at all times, regardless of the person’s present state of consciousness.
  2. Always assume that levels of awareness exist in the dying person. Assume that they can hear, can feel,can see in ways we may not be accustomed to.
  3. Don’t judge the person or the unexplainable event.
  4. Don’t assign blame to medication or assume the “person was out of their mind.” Though medication can certainly heighten access to “non-rational” phenomenon, it does not necessarily produce the story-line of the mystery.
  5. Accept that the dying person may access non-physical reality that we are not able to, a reality containing necessary information for their dying process.
  6. If you want to, share the story in the spirit of learning. Don’t pretend to know or explain what happened. Pass it on with an open heart and mind.
  7. Be a compassionate listener. Validate their vision, and allow the story to unfold. If agitation is present, be a calming force. Trust their wisdom. You don’t have to fix them or resolve the story.