Families I meet often need to review their experience going through the medical journey with their loved one prior to death. At that time, some describe not allowing themselves to feel, needing to "be on the ready" to react to constantly changing conditions, For others, it might have been an elongated slow walk, not knowing when things will start to decline further. In addition to all the uncertainty, family members describe this as a time of great inner conflict. They feel guilt over "giving up" hope and moving toward emotionally letting go of their loved one when the end is inevitable.
One mom, who had made the difficult decision to take her son off life support, sat at this bedside for 30 days, shaving and bathing him daily, found it excruciating to be waiting for death to overtake him. She wished for him to be free of his suffering, but felt a mother wishing for the death of a child was an impossible conflict. She took long walks in the woods to quiet her heart and make some peace with the tragedy that had happened. She preferred not to talk to family, but found comfort in inspirational readings. She had previous losses but none could compare to the intensity of "waiting". When I saw her a year later, all her hard work struggling to be just "be" with her son as he moved towards death and knowing she had fulfilled her role as his mother until the very end, seemed to give her permission to go on living.