What Matters Most
For many people, a referral to hospice is the first introduction to end of life. What happens next can bring out the best qualities in people, call forth the worst, and most carry some level of worry, fear of the unknown, and every emotion in-between.
When I walk in the door for the first time, I am often met with emotionally distraught people, spinning in different directions colliding with each other (literally and figuratively.) Family members commonly have a deer in the headlights look on their faces, with shoulders hiked up near their ears, and without the ability to fully exhale.
When we are in worry, fear or physical or emotional pain, it can consume us, and we find ourselves not being able to think or deal with anything else.
This is when the most gratifying part of my job as a hospice nurse comes in.
I have the family gather, often around the bed of the loved one who is dying. I talk about what is happening, why it’s happening, what to expect in the next moments, hours, days, weeks or months. I speak about what the last breath looks like. Most hang onto every word with open mouths. I offer opportunities to ask questions and beautiful discussions follow. I have had these discussions hundreds of times. Shoulders drop, brows unfurrow, deep breaths are heard.
When the dying process is no longer a scary mystery, people can get to what matters most. To me, that is connection and love.