When my relatives were approaching the end of their life, I experienced mixed emotions. Having also witnessed this process in other’s lives, mixed emotions are a very common experience.

Fearing the death of a loved one is very often one of the emotions we experience. We want them to always be with us. Our fear can have many facets including:

  • The grief of no longer having our loved one in our lives
  • The worry about whether we can cope with being with them as they approach death
  • The fear of making things worse for them when our intention is to help and support
  • The hopelessness of not being able to make things better for our loved one

In contrast, we may also wish for the dying process to be over leading to feelings of:

  • Guilt, as this would mean our loved one has died
  • Relief, knowing that our loved one’s suffering is over
  • Release, from the day to day stresses and strains of caring for our loved one

These mixed emotions can result in feelings of inner conflict, confusion and turmoil.

Personally, I also experienced feelings of failure most days during the last phase of my relative’s life. This was rooted in the fact that no matter how much I helped and supported them, they would eventually die and I had no way of preventing this.

I found that several things helped me when these emotions became too much: These included:

  • Talking about how I felt with those who had similar experiences – this helped me gain some perspective
  • Taking time out from caring and doing things to destress
  • Being kind to myself and not judging my emotions
  • Having conversations with my relative so I knew what they wanted and I could support them in appropriate ways

When supporting others who are experiencing mixed emotions in these circumstances, I’ve found that these things can help them:

  • Listening as they talk about their emotions
  • Helping them recognise that others have very similar experiences – they are not alone in this
  • Encouraging them to recognise the positive support they are providing for their relative
  • Reminding them to take time out for themselves and offering practical support where appropriate to enable them to do this

Most of us will experience a relative’s death and being with them during the last phase of their life. Supporting each other through the mixed emotions that this experience can manifest helps each of us to cope with these experiences.