Understanding how to provide comfort to someone who’s terminal ill is very difficult. The simple idea of knowing what to say or when to say it causes stress.  Unfortunately, this is a situation that we’ve all experienced or will experience at some point in our lives.  Here are a few ideas to help you through the process.

Emotional Comfort

Let the Dying Person Lead the Conversation

Feeling stressed and anxious when speaking with a terminal person is completely normal. If you are afraid of saying the wrong thing, simply let the dying person lead the conversation.  What’s most important is to meet their needs, and not your own.  Listen for clues during the conversation as to whether he or she is ready to talk about their death.  Ask questions to gauge their feelings.  Remember that humor and laughter are not disrespectful.  It can help ease the tension and bring joy to both of you.

Be Clear in Your Conversations

Some individuals avoid talking about their imminent death right up until the last possible moment.  You need to respect their wishes in this regard.  However, it is more typical for dying individuals to appreciate open and honest conversations.  It helps them feel respected and supported.  Acknowledge their feelings and concerns and ask questions.  Let them know that you are available for any needed support.

Often, as death is approaches, family members gather together with their loved one. This can be a beautiful time for the family, a time to cherish, a time to remember the love you share.

Ask for Forgiveness

Rather than having to live with any possible regrets following the death of a loved one, ask for forgiveness.  Briefly describe the incident and offer a simple apology.  Whether the apology is accepted or not, you will know that you did everything you could to rectify any wrongs or hurt feelings.  You expressed your regret and offered an apology.

Offer Forgiveness

If you ask for forgiveness, it is possible that the dying will, in turn, ask for your forgiveness.  Saying a simple “I forgive you” clears the air and releases tension, allowing for a time of deep caring in the time that remains.  However, the dying may not ask for forgiveness.  If you feel wronged, you can still offer forgiveness, doing it silently in your head and your heart.  This way you can let go of your anger and feelings of resentment.

Say Thank You

Tell your loved just what he or she has meant in your life and thank them.  It is a beautiful reminder for your dying loved one that his or her life mattered, that he or she made a difference in the lives of their loved ones.


Touch often speaks louder than words.  When words are no longer possible, touch still has the power to connect and remind the dying that you are with them and that you love them.

Physical Comfort

Providing physical comfort is also important.  Watch out for possible symptoms of discomfort such as:

  • Physical pain,
  • Problems breathing,
  • Irritated skin,
  • Digestive issues,
  • Sensitivity to temperature, and
  • Fatigue

Ensuring the physical comfort of your terminal loved one is extremely important. No one deserves to die in pain. Be sensitive to their issues, and offer practical comfort such as pain medication or a blanket to keep warm.  At the same time, you need to respect the wishes of the dying and accept how they are feeling.  If the person does not want to eat, do not try to force them to eat. Respect his or her wishes.


Watching a loved one die is never easy.  The best thing you can do is be there for your loved one, be honest in your emotions, and love them.