When Marie was diagnosed with a terminal illness and given a few months to live, her family and friends responded to her in different ways. Some offered support by calling, visiting, or sending cards expressing their caring and love. But others, those that she most expected and really needed to feel their loving support did not call, come to visit or even send a card.
In particular Tracy, her very good friend of 30 years did not call or visit even once during those last few months of Marie's life. Even though in the course of those 30 years, Tracy and her husband shared a close relationship with Marie, her husband and family that included holidays, vacations, and many other family events.
When Marie died, Tracy and her husband attended the funeral expressing to Marie’s husband, with tears in their eyes, how sorry they were at the loss of their friend and how much they regretted not visiting or calling. They were very sad that they were not there for Marie and did not see her or be with her while she was still alive and in the end did not say goodbye.
Even today, many months after Marie’s passing I still feel sadness for her close friends' lost opportunity to be there for Marie and her family. I’ve seen this type of behavior before and understand how difficult it is for some people to "get close" to the terminal illness of a close friend or family member. They are uncomfortable and do not know what to say or do. So often they end up doing nothing and avoid the situation which they usually regret for many years because there is no second chance for closure.
Following are some suggestions if you or someone you know is having the same type of the difficulty relating to a friend or relative who is going through a terminal illness:
- Contact one of the relatives, or the spouse, a mutual friend or someone close to the ill person and share your discomfort at not knowing what to say or do. Have them be your guide.
- Contact your clergy and ask them for help.
- Send a card, or even email or text or reach out in any other way to the terminally ill person to let them know you are thinking of them. If you are comfortable and they are able to accept visitors suggest that you would like to see them.
- If a visit is arranged, remember that just your presence is very important to your dying friend or relative and if you don't know what to say it is okay to sit and listen and just your presence will bring comfort to them.
Make the extra effort and seize any opportunity to let your dying friend or relative know how much you care about them and their friendship and you will have "no regrets".