Preparing for Loss

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Use strategies to support your loved one at the end of their life.
  • Identify ways to prepare for life after your loved one.
Looking through photo book


If your loved one is at the end of their life, both you and your loved one may be grieving. Experiences with grief will be different for everyone depending on your loved one’s illness, past experiences with grief, and your relationship with your loved one.

How can you support your loved one at the end of their life?

The end of life stage can last from weeks to years. It may be overwhelming for your loved one to accept or process the end of their life. During this time, you can try to focus on making your loved one comfortable and enjoying the time you have left together. Consider the following strategies:

Let them share their thoughts or fears. If they are frustrated, let them feel this way and reassure them.

Let your loved one know you care about them and share anything else you would like them to know.

Talk about their life or favorite things to help them reflect on dying if they are able to. Consider creating a box of their memories or interests. Tell stories or share photos of past enjoyable times.

Reassure your loved one that you will honor their desires for their funeral or will and respect any cultural or spiritual needs.

Other Considerations

If your loved one cannot use speech to communicate, you may be able to communicate with body language, behavior, or facial expressions. Try to connect with your loved one in the way they prefer and appeal to their other senses.

For example, if your loved one enjoys:

  • Sounds: Listen to a favorite song together or read aloud to your loved one.
  • Touch: Hold or gently massage their hand. Stay by their side.
  • Smells: Place their favorite perfume or flower near them. If they enjoy a certain holiday, consider what scents are present around that time.
  • Sights: Surround them with comforting and familiar items. If possible, spend time outside with them.

While you can try your best to support your loved one, it is important to remember that you also need to support yourself. Try to recognize your limits and be honest with yourself when you may need extra help and support for either yourself or your loved one.

Preparing for Life After Your Loved One

Think about how you can honor your loved one

This may allow you to accept your loved one’s passing in a healthy and
meaningful way. Consider the following tips:

  • Know your loved one’s wishes. Find out if your loved one has requests for their funeral or a will that you can help fulfill.
  • Coordinate with anyone who may want to speak to or see your loved one. If family members or friends are unable to physically see your loved one, consider having them send videos of messages they would like to share.

Imagine your life after your loved one

It can sometimes be helpful to think about what your life will look like when your loved one is gone. This may help you plan for how to organize your life and routine. It may be comforting to know you have options. Consider the following tips:

  • Know where your supports are. Think about who you can turn to in your life. Have these people in mind to reach out to after your loved one is gone. This may include family, friends, a counsellor, others who knew your loved one, or support groups.
  • Reflect on what you are feeling. It may be likely that you are grieving not only your loved one, but also changes in finances, your living situation, or your identity as a caregiver. Grief can come from any change. It is important to think about what will change and what you will have to adjust to after your loved one.
  • Consider what has helped you through difficult situations in the past. Think about what is still around in your life that you can draw strength from. This may include religion, friendships, hobbies, or anything else that is meaningful to you.
  • Consider what you can do with the extra time you will have. You may be able to do more of the things you enjoy or get back into something you used to do before caregiving.

Give yourself the time and space to adjust after your loved one is gone. Everyone will heal from grieving in their own time and way. Be honest with yourself and reach out for support when you need it.

Check Your Learning

A. Listen to his needs and thoughts.
B. Show him old photos and memories from their travels.
C. Play music that reminds him of his favorite travel location.
D. All of the above.

Answer: D

A. Consider what will be meaningful to Mark for his funeral.
B. Coordinate with family and friends who want to see Mark before his passing.
C. A and B.
D. None of the above.

Answer: C

A. Who she can turn to for support.
B. What changes she will need to adjust to.
C. How she will spend her extra time.
D. All of the above.

Answer: D

Additional Resources

  • Man and woman walking together

    20+ Ideas for Managing Caregiver Stress

  • Woman with hand on forehead

    Caregiver Guilt

  • Two woman sitting outside having a conversation

    Caring For Your Mental Health While Caring For Someone Else’s

  • Woman sitting down writing in journal

    Effective Self-Care