Chapter 2: Preparing for death

Honouring rituals

The expert says
Description to come(3:22)Video transcript

It had been many years since our family had been together in one room, but it was so important to Dad we did this. If it gave him peace in dying, it was okay with us.

Simple acts of caring – such as sitting with the dying person while gentle music plays in the background, or holding or stroking their hand or arm—are rituals. In difficult times, these rituals may take on extra significance as ways of ordering and calming the feelings that arise or expressing the love you may hold for the person who is dying. Such acts are comforting both for the dying person and also for family members and friends.

For those who belong to a spiritual tradition, there may be rituals that highlight the spiritual significance of your experience that offer comfort to you and to the person who is dying.

Rituals at the time of death and recognizing that death has occurred

The moments before and after death are full of feeling and sometimes of wonder. You may have a sense that the person is slipping from one life to another.

If you are religious, you may want to pray. Many religious and cultural traditions have prescribed rituals to follow after death; you should ensure that the healthcare team knows about them and is prepared to support you in following them.

There is no need to rush after the person has died. The minutes and hours following the death are a time of grieving openly, saying final goodbyes, supporting one another, arranging for the care of the body, and planning for a funeral or memorial service. They are the rituals of grief, and there can be comfort in observing them.