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HELP: I don’t want to be a burden on my wife and kids.

This may be the most challenging time of your life. Relinquishing your identity as leader, provider and carer is not for the weak. You may also worry about losing your dignity. Words like “lame duck” and “useless” may cross your mind.

Ironically, you are able to give a great gift to your spouse, children and community. By consciously allowing your loved ones to care for you, you give them an irreplaceable growth opportunity and help them grieve. What if one of them were in your shoes, would you resent caring for them?

While the care you require may feel like that of an infant or toddler, it’s different in that it’s more sacred. You should have no fear of becoming undignified when surrounded by loved ones. “People are inherently dignified, and they are only made undignified if they are placed in situations that are demeaning.” (Byock, Ira. Dying Well: Peace and possibilities at the end of life, 1997: pg95)

I personally experienced and have witnessed families come together and grow closer when caring for the dying. Your spouse and children will have some difficult moments and days, but they will not be alone. As they help you, others will step forward to support them in their journey. You are strengthening your community by allowing others to step forward and help you and your family.

If fortunate, you have had a long life and made peace with what is to come. If this is a struggle, a certified end-of-life doula and life coach, can help your work through your thoughts and emotions. This support is also available for your loved ones as they process their loss and feel fatigued by the emotional pain of a long goodbye.

Dr. Ira Byock expressed it best. He writes of his father’s passing: “His decision to allow himself to be totally cared for – dressed and undressed, toileted and turned – by his family was his final gift to us.” (1997: pg23).

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