Companioning the Dying
Support for people who are dying is a critically important way of being a companion. It is crucial that we be present to those dying in a way that will enhance rather than hinder their transition to the next plane. Family members often find it difficult to focus on the person who is dying rather than on themselves and their own suffering, their fear of losing a loved one. It is critical to remember that the one who is dying needs to be the focus of intention and attention rather than any others. This is their time, not the time of the family and friends! So those who are around the person dying need to be as fully present as they are able, letting the dying person know that they are being fully supported as they transition. It is inappropriate to have an emotional outburst at the side of the person who is dying. This causes distraction and possible distress for the one dying and may keep them hanging on when their primary purpose is to move freely to the next plane. So if one feels an emotional outburst coming, it is most helpful for that person to leave, express their emotions in a different place before returning to the presence of the one dying. The dying person needs to know from those present that it is ok to go, that those around will be ok, that the dying person does not need to take care of them. It is helpful to act in ways that support the person approaching transition: thanking the person for his/her life, for their love, for specific things for which someone is grateful. A gathering of family and friends might gently sing favorite songs, religious or not, say prayers, do readings or poems which have been a joy and comfort during life. One might play soothing CDs or invite a musician* to play the harp or other instrument. Touching, holding hands, other physical gestures which could bring comfort and assurance are all appropriate. The key is complete focus of intention and attention on the person who is dying.
After the person has died, a quiet atmosphere should be maintained, continuing presence to support the transition. The spirit does not depart immediately. The Buddhist tradition suggests leaving the body undisturbed for up to four days. In the West, the remains are quickly given over to the undertaker. But it is important that family members and/or friends take the time they need to honor the body in ways they find consoling and supportive.
Ongoing support for the person who has passed is also important. It is not as if the person has ceased to exist. They are still on a journey and we can continue to be connected wiht them and can continue to support them on their journey. As suggested in Testimony of Light,** we can ask the Holy One that the loved one be accompanied by the Angels and Light Beings, that they be taken ever more deeply into the Divine Light. We can assure the one who has passed that all he/she needs for the journey forward is available. He/she needs only to ask for it. As one service for those who have died states: "Life is changed not ended."
* Dee Curci is a friend of ours who, through playing the harp, supports the dying in their transition. (See link to The Blessed Foundation)
** Testimony of Light by Helen Greaves Nevelle Spearman Publishers, The C. W. Daniel Company limited, of Saffron Walden, England
We would be happy to meet with members of families who are preparing for the loss of a loved one, to encourage them to be strong and supportive companions for the one whom they expect to transition.