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A lot can be said about grief. Google the term, and you’ll get almost 630 million search results. But search for “how to sit with someone who is dying,” and you’ll get exactly eight results. 


When you lose a loved one, dozens or hundreds or even thousands of people might grieve with you, in some capacity or another. Grief is common and universal and shared so often that we’re much better at talking about it. 


But sitting with someone who’s dying? Not many of us get to do that. It’s a strange place, what I call one of our liminal spaces. But it’s an important place to sit and just be with loved ones as they pass from one stage to another, whether that is through childbirth, the transition from teen to adult, or a period between jobs. 


Listen. Sit. Let them talk if they can. Listen some more.


This past week, those five days of sitting with my mom, comforting her and others, and receiving comfort from those around me was a unique time. It was as if time almost stood still. 


Turning toward these hard times with family and friends was such an honor and so powerfully healing. Ruptures in relationships that had been festering for years were put to rest as we witnessed each other’s love for Mom and experienced love for each other. 


Our fondness and admiration were restored. Old wounds were set aside and somehow healed. Conflicts were managed through gentle but frank conversations. 


When Mom awoke for an hour and a half, I was able to process with her that the doctors had done all they could and confirm with her that she wanted to die. We were able to say goodbye before she slipped into unconsciousness. 


Some family members said, “I wouldn’t have been so frank,” but I knew Mom was ready. I knew it was her wish, so we could talk openly about the end. It gave me so much peace knowing we had spoken of the end prior to this time, but it was still hard to sit in the space in between, that liminal space. 


Hard as they are, sometimes, it’s in these places in between where the deepest growth happens. Creating rituals around these times helped us deal and cope. Some family members needed to be present, others couldn’t be. Each did what they needed to. Grace for each other is what mattered most. 


Change like this is never easy. But being prepared to sit in that space and be present with your loved ones as you move through the change together can make the transition easier and — dare I say — beautiful.