Episode 33: Telling Them It's OK To Go.
Updated: Apr 20
Have you heard stories about people that are on their deathbed but seem to linger on, as if they're waiting for something or someone before they crossover? Whether they are worried about family, money, finances or just fearful of leaving this earth, it is sometimes a struggle for our loved ones to be at peace with leaving this world. In this episode, Mitch shares his experiences with this end of life situation and provides guidance on how we can prepare ourselves to help our loved ones become OK with letting go.
"Telling someone it's okay to go means we have to be willing to let them go. This is harder than words can ever express...There comes a time when you realize it really is time to stop fighting. It's time to lay down your sword. It's time to give assurance to your loved one that everything's gonna be okay. We have things covered and it's okay for them to go. "
There you are. Welcome to another episode of Living With Hospice. I'm Mitch Ware, and I will be your host today, we're honored to have you with us. Come on in, grab some coffee, or some juice, pull up a chair, and let's chat. By the way, while you're doing that, let me remind you that I'm not a doctor, I'm not a nurse. I'm not a certified counselor. What I am, is a person that has been around hospice, death and dying for almost two decades, I've utilized hospice services as a client several times, as well as been a volunteer for many years. And for several large hospice organizations, by the way, here in West Michigan. I've worked with several hundred patients in those years, and I've worked closely with their families, there isn't much I haven't seen, and nothing much surprises me anymore. This podcast is not sponsored. It's not affiliated with any particular hospice, or any other institution or agency. And that's by design. I want to be able to give you the straight scoop, accurate and timely information about anything and everything, hospice and end of life journey in general. I don't give medical advice. I don't give legal advice. My goal is to inform and equip you based on my firsthand experiences in an effort for you to have a blessed end of life journey with your family.
Have you heard stories about people that are on their deathbed who seem to linger, as if they're waiting for something or someone before they crossover? Or maybe you've experienced this for yourself firsthand. I've witnessed people actually wait until their son or daughter or nephew or whomever and came to their bedside before they were at peace and transitioned over. I've seen people linger until they are assured that it's okay to go by their family. Why do people linger like that?
Perhaps they're worried about the family, or money issues, finances or whatever, people linger for a number of reasons. Many times, it's just they don't feel like it's time to go. That what's behind them, what they're leaving behind isn't ready for them to leave. And sometimes it's out of fear of crossing over. And I'm sure there's a myriad of other reasons too.
Hospice workers and volunteers share with our patient families that it's okay to let their dying loved ones know that everything is being taken care of. That even though they will be terribly missed, everything will be okay. I was surprised at just how many people actually wait to hear those exact words. "Mom, or dad or grandma, grandpa. It's okay to go. We'll take care of things here." And then grandma or grandpa, or Mom and Dad... whomever... they pass away peacefully. You can sometimes see it in their body language. Their face relaxes, and they pass over in peace.
Losing a loved one is difficult enough. But to comfort a dying loved one can be overwhelming for some because they're dealing with so much emotion for themselves. And certainly challenging and heart wrenching for the rest of us. Even for those whose loved one has suffered through treatments and surgeries and other painful experiences related to curative medicine, we just can't let them go. It's just too hard for us to even say those words. Or even maybe think those words. Finding the courage to speak at all can be a challenge for many of us.
There is no way to prepare yourself for this. No way to practice these feelings. But the truth be known. Many people fall into this category. I would venture to guess most people fall into this category. So don't worry, if you're one of them. Your feelings are very common. They're reasonable, and they're normal.
Telling someone it's okay to go means we have to be willing to let them go. This is harder than words can ever express. Especially if it's your mom or dad or your wife or husband and, God forbid, if it's one of your children. I know. We had to do that in our family. There comes a time when you realize, okay, it really is time to stop fighting. It's time to lay down your sword. It's time to give assurance to your loved one that everything's gonna be okay. We have things covered. It's okay to go.
You know my son, who I've referred to on several these episodes, he was given six to 12 months to live. At the age of 24, he suffered from brain cancer when we received that news from his surgeon we were all in shock. And when he came to in postop, he asked, "Well, what do they find?" His mom and I had to tell him what they found, and that we would get lab results back in a few days to confirm what the doctors seem to think was there. And a few days later, his phone rang. It was a surgeon giving him the hard news. His prognosis was short, but there were treatments that were promising. Without treatments, he had a prognosis of three to six months, with treatments, maybe a year.
So we started treatments. And he decided he wanted to fight this thing with everything he had. So as his dad I signed on to from that day forward, we lived in what we called 24 hour lifetimes. Now fast forward again, 39 months later. The nurse told us that was the day that Matt was going to heaven. He had begin transitioning that morning, and a little after four that afternoon. I'd gone across the hall from Matt's room to visit with a patient there when someone came rushing in and told me to come back quick. My wife Lori met me at the door. And she said, "He spared you, Mitch. He's gone."
And I ran into him shouting, "No, that's not the deal. That can't happen." And I grabbed his hand. And this is a hand that hadn't moved in months, because he'd had a stroke from the result of all of his radiation treatments on his brain. And my wife said to him, "Matt, if you see God go to him." Those words hit me like a bolt from the sky. And it was only then that I suddenly realized that the fight was over. And it was his time. And I realized it was time for me to lay down my sword. And with tears running down my face, I leaned over and whispered to him, "Mattie, it's okay, if you see God, run to him." And I still had that, that broken hand in mind. And with that, he squeezed my hand and was gone. Lori and I given him the okay to go, he waiting for me to get back into the room to go was a handoff to God. As I held his right hand, God reached down and grabbed the other and brought him home to glory.
The thought of telling someone you love so very, very, very much that it's okay to go is gut wrenching. It's unthinkable until it's time to do so. Like I said, there's no way to prepare for this. There's no way to practice for it. You can put these thoughts and get things lined up in your mind, but it's not the same. So how do we do this?
Well, first, nobody wants to even think about this. Nobody. You don't. I didn't. I still don't. Nobody wants to think about even rehearsing telling their loved one. "It's okay to die, grandpa. It's okay to die, dad. We got this." You know why? Because we're so busy focusing on living. And that's okay, the realization that it's okay to go and that now is the time has to come from within inside of you. You need to realize that, okay, the fight is over, it's time to lay down the sword. Soon there's no more suffering and that your loved one has fought a good fight and you right there with them. And now is the time to cross over. And then you have to let go. And you have to let them go emotionally. hold their hand is God takes their other hand and be with them be present. But let them know. It's okay. And now is the time.
Some people do this by telling their loved one if they see grandpa or mom or sister or whomever go to them. Some people say if you see Jesus, or Moses, or maybe a favorite character from the Bible, go to them. We all try to figure out what they must be seeing and experiencing what we don't really know - except for what people who have been clinically dead or deemed clinically dead and have come back and have told us.
(By the way, isn't it amazing how people all over the world tell the same story? They share a similar experience about life after death and I haven't heard a bad story yet.)
Many family members lack the courage to let their loved one go and certainly don't want to tell them that it's okay to go. And I get that, in some people are like, well, I can't let them go just yet. Not yet. Not now, maybe tomorrow, maybe this weekend, when Johnny and his wife get in from Arizona. Is that you?
Here are a couple of things to ponder. First of all, we're all afraid, and we're sad watching our loved ones suffer. But know that you aren't alone in this,. Evvn if it's just you and your loved one, you're not alone in thiis . They are here. And you are to o. And if you are a person of faith, you know that God is here with you also. S
Second, remember that when your loved one crosses over, they'll no longer be in that broken down old body. There'll be free, they're free to run again, to jump again, to smile, to sing, and dance and feel joy, who would want to take that away from them?
And third, is your loved one worried or scared about something? Many people are right on their deathbed right up to the very end. Some people really do worry about everyday things like finances, and they worry about who's going to take care of this or that or how will this get done if I'm not here to do it. Another big fear is separation from family. People don't want to go because well, they just don't want to leave their families behind. Maybe they have a granddaughter that they want to see grow up. Or maybe they have a daughter, that they want to live long enough to walk down the aisle. And eternity to some people is a great unknown to others who have faith, it is unknown, still scary, because we haven't been there yet. At least not that we recall. But it's still an unknown. And then there's a fear of what's next? What happens when I die? In our last episode, the fear of death, I shared a personal story as an analogy about fearing death, which is really the fear of the unknown. If you recall, in that episode, I share that I was afraid of starting kindergarten. That first morning, it was the fear of the unknown. I threw a fit. My mom found me between my bed and the wall. And she literally had to pick me up carry me to school that first day. Now, that was kindergarten, and then I didn't want to come home, she had to come find me at lunchtime. And I was a morning kid. Back in those days, we had morning kindergarten and then a different group came in in the afternoon. Anyway, I didn't want to come home and she had almost dragged me home. I loved kindergarten. I love my teacher, Mrs. Overly. I'll never forget. But it was the fear of the unknown that morning that I just didn't want to go, I knew that everybody is going to kindergarten, I knew that everything would probably be okay. But there was that fear of the unknown. I just didn't want to go. And some people are like that about death. So telling them it's okay to go. That everything will be okay. Gives them comfort.
We as caregivers, family, friends, we all reconcile our feelings, our fears and our self doubts, we can find the courage to be present with and for our loved ones, not just physically, but we can do it emotionally and spiritually too. As as they transition and cross over. We really do have the ability to engage with them.
I remind my patient families that this very, very special time when our loved ones cross over, it's a wonderful time to engage and be with them at a higher level. I share with my patient families that you know there will never be another time of such intimacy with that person ever. Not in this lifetime. So use this time to share love to share comfort. speak to them from your heart. Tell them how much you love them. Tell them how much they mean to you and your family. Thank them for all that they've done for you. Forgive them and ask them for forgiveness. Sing to them, read favorite passages to them. And when you run out of things to say sing, read, then just hold them. Let your heart speak to theirs. It will! You are blessing them. They are comforted. They know they're loved and they know they mattered. When they hear from you. It's okay to go now. That's a huge blessing.
When we let someone go, when we whisper into their ear. "It's okay. We'll be okay. "Many of us experience a sense or feeling that is best described as a feeling of relief and of being free and there is yet another feeling that washes over us, when our loved one takes their last breath and crosses over. For some, it's a sense of spirituality of holiness, as if God Himself, were right there in the room with you. A feeling of pure love and contentment, and peace, a piece that really does surpass our ability to understand or articulate.
Trust me, I've experienced this several times. If you're like most, you dread having to tell your loved one, that it's their time. You can't really prepare for it, you can't practice it. These are almost once in a lifetime feelings that that you'll experience, and you have a choice. You can sit and be quiet and let it be awkward. Or you can take control and make it peaceful and make it a blessing.
Help yourself with your own fears and insecurities by opening up your mind and heart. Engage with your loved one, focus on your loved one, focus on the memories. Let them know how you feel about them. Tell them that you love them. And all the things we talked about, sing to them, read to them, and most importantly, be present, they will be comforted. And you'll have this blessing this memory to hold in your mind and in your heart for the rest of your life. You can turn what well might have been a bad experience, or at least a neutral experience into a life long blessing.
So as we wrap up, how do I tell someone it's their time?
Well, first, get your heart and mind right. Realize that it's time and then tell them, "you know what Grandma, we've got this. We'll take care of grandpa . We'll take care of whatever." And when that comes from within you and you say "Grandma, it really is okay to go" and touching her arm or maybe touching her forehead, maybe kissing her forehead. Now she can be free of that broken down body. She can run and dance and sing and be free from all of this. And Grandma will feel that love. She'll feel like her life has been validated. And she'll be thanking God Almighty for the life that she had. And guess what.... you help facilitate that right then in there. What a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful blessing for you, as well as her.
Thanks for sharing your time with me today. It's a pleasure to share a cup of coffee with you. If you'd like to hear more episodes about all these things, hospice and end of life. Check us out wherever you get your podcasts or come directly to our website at www.livingwithhospice.info.
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Have a blessed day.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai