How to develop EI - Articles

How to develop EI - Categories


« 21. Grief: Someone I love is dying, what do I say? »

Written by Rachel Green, Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute, accredited user of the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso-Emotional-Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) and internationally recognised Emotional Intelligence Coach.

I have deep sadness and am grief stricken. Someone I love dearly and have known for so long is dying. I don't know what to say to her. What should I do?

I was asked this question recently not long after a very close and long-standing friend of mine had died. I had been with her for the three months from diagnosis to death as she moved from hospital to hospital and never came home. It was all very sudden and unexpected, she only woke up with back pain and now she was gone.

What does one say? I am not a grief expert. Grief is a very specific emotion and many have more theoretical expertise in the handling of it than I do. However, this is what I learnt from being with my friend. I hope it may help you.

Struggling to manage your emotions or read others? Sign up for our five-star emotional intelligence coaching package and have your emotional intelligence assessed on the MSCEIT as part of that. Emotions will become easier. Click here to find out more.

Grief: Someone I love is dying, what do I say?

  1. Tell her how much you love her. Do not hold back. Even if you think she knows, to hear it directly from you is different and special.
  2. Tell her it is okay to go. Sometimes people hang on and hang on, needing to die but being scared to go or being worried about or feeling guilty about the people they are leaving behind. If your person is worried that you won't cope, giving her or him your permission to go can be an enormous relief.
  3. Thank her for the great things she has done for you. Think of all sorts of silly and serious things to thank her or him for.
  4. Acknowledge their suffering and how well they have fought to stay well or overcome it. Help them not to feel like a failure. I will never forget my friend telling me "It's hard work you know Rachel, it's hard work". She was talking about staying alive. "Yes it is my love" I said, "and you have been amazing in fighting to stay well, you have done everything possible to recover, and I know how hard that has been, now it is okay to stop the fighting, you deserve to rest from it all."
  5. Relive the good and fun times together - being with your dying person does not have to only be sad and mournful. I have been with my friend many times in hospital, and we laughed together about some of the silly things and we had some truly wonderful moments together, probably some of our deepest and best. If I could help her laugh, even through immense pain, my contribution was significant. If you can do the same you have made an important difference.

Hold his or her hand in silence

Finally, it is not just about words, sometimes it is simply about sharing a loving space together or an intimate loving touch. Hold his or her hand and be in silence together.

As Elisabeth Kubler Ross, author of “On death and dying” said about being silent together:

Those who have the strength and the love to sit with a dying patient in the silence that goes beyond words will know that this moment is neither frightening nor painful, but a peaceful cessation of the functioning of the body. Watching a peaceful death of a human being reminds us of a falling star; one of a million lights in a vast sky that flares up for a brief moment.

More information: On Death and Dying - EKR Foundation

Have no regrets - tell her what you need to.

My love to you at this sad time.

Taking care of yourself

During this time also look after yourself. Rest yourself each time you leave them and let yourself regenerate. I found meditating an enormous help and have made some meditation audio-downloads to help guide you. 

Happy not hassled meditation MP3s: $29 (US). Add to Cart

Develop your own or your leader's emotional intelligence

For more details, or to make a booking, e-mail us now