Archive for December, 2011

Give the Gift of Listening


This photo was taken by Andrew Beeston 

The holidays are a time of the year when people show their emotions the most. Anger, sadness and joy are some emotions people express during the holidays based on their personal beliefs or past experiences. The holiday season also prompts people to share their true feelings with family and friends whether they are good or bad. Sometimes this includes elderly members of our family who believe their years left are numbered and want to make sure their message is heard.

When we start to hear our grandparents, parents, aunts or uncles talk as if they might pass away very soon it can be hard to accept, especially around the holidays. We do not want to think this could be their last family holiday function because it puts a damper on the celebration. If you find yourself in a similar situation with a family member over the holidays, here are a few tips I have gathered from my experience working in hospice.

 Actively Listen

If your loved one wants to tell a story or have a serious conversation with you, give him or her, your full, undivided attention and listen. One of the biggest fears we face with death is the possibility of being forgotten. The stories that we have can be passed around and shared with our family for generations. It can be reassuring to your loved one that he or she will be remembered. So, even though you may be hearing grandpa’s fishing story for the 100th time, listen again and tell him that you’ll pass his story on to your grandkids one day.

 Ask Questions

When family members begin to open up and speak as if they have a short time left in their life, ask them questions. This shows them that you care about the life they have lived and that they are significant to you. Ask them for advice and to share the life lessons they have learned. This will make them feel needed and that they are still valued and respected.

Build Support

If a family member feels as if his or her days are numbered, talk to your other family members about it. Building a strong support system with other family members will help ease the pain when a death occurs. Sharing different views and perspectives can also provide a large retrospect about how one person can affect so many lives in different ways. Grandpa’s fishing story may mean one thing to you but something completely different to your cousin. Communicating with other family members can teach you something you never knew about your sick family member.

The holiday season can be an overwhelming time. Always be sure to take time and listen to a family member or friend who is trying to be heard. Make them feel important and that their message will never be forgotten. Be patient while listening to the same story for the 100th time and maybe one day someone will do the same for you. Have a safe and wonderful holiday season.

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