Cheated Out of Time
My father passed away recently, and I feel cheated out of important time with him. He stopped communicating altogether the last five days before he died. There were so many things I wanted to talk to him about still. I always assumed he would leave us with parting words or life advice. I wish the nurses and doctors had warned me that he would not be able to speak before death, and now I have to live with regret. How do I make peace with his death and the way it played out?
You have my sympathies regarding the loss of your father. The passing of such an important person in one’s life often has a profound impact. It gives most children pause, forcing us to reflect on life.
What you hoped for in your father’s final days is what we often see in the movies. The patriarch is dying and imparting his wisdom learned through a lifetime. He then peacefully closes his eyes and in a few seconds is gone. A perfect movie moment. Only in a traumatic death does the actor not speak before they die, though even then they often utter beautifully written last words.
The truth is the vast majority of people stop speaking altogether in the final hours of life. If I was pressed to estimate, I would say that 90-95% of people do not speak before dying. In fact, during the last three days of life, most people do not converse. You see, as the body shuts down consciousness decreases, making a meaningful conversation more and more difficult.
I appreciate that you are now forced to review your father’s life and subsequent death. In most situations we can think of things we might have said differently, actions we could have taken, or time we could have spent. This is the human way. It is also part of the grieving process that everyone goes through after the loss of a loved one.
Reaching out to get your questions answered can be very helpful. Professionals in clinical practices and the mental health field are the most knowledgeable in assisting family members to process the loss. Hospices are required to provide bereavement counseling to families of the departed and can be very helpful. If your father died in hospice care, I strongly recommend that you reach out to the hospice’s bereavement staff to talk through your experience. Telling your story to a seasoned grief counselor can have a tremendous impact on your grieving process.
I wish you the best on this after-death journey. It is often times as difficult as the end-of-life journey. Give yourself time, patience, and the understanding that grieving is real, difficult and a lot of work. Know that you are not alone and that there are people willing and able to help you along the way.
Family Caregiving Advice Column
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