Mental health & wellbeing matters: when someone you know approaches end of life

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Our weekly spot where we chat about mental health and wellbeing looks at self-care when someone around you is coming to the end of their time.

A difficult topic this one, and as always, there are far better resources out there to continue the conversation. This is just the starting point, but it’s something that’s not really talked about. It’s a few words on when there’s something you know, who maybe is close to you, who’s approaching the end of their life. And how we forget to care for ourselves.

It’s not easy to talk about death, but I guess most of us would hope for something peaceful and brief when the moment comes. Life does tend to have other plans though, and many of us live with someone who’s been given an idea of how much time they have left, or are heading in that direction. Some are helping give palliative care to a friend or loved one, and it’s a hard place to be in. Both for the person going through it, and the people around them.

This piece is about the latter, though. Because it’s very easy when you’ve someone approaching the end of their life around you to neglect yourself. That people tend to be leaning on you, or relying on you, or just assuming you can hold things together because, well, often we’re just expected to.

But I think self-care is absolutely vital.

I lost my mum five years ago now, and the time when I knew she was going was brutal. There was a period where I wasn’t eating or drinking properly, and wasn’t giving myself time to breathe out. I just wanted to be there for her, to make sure I was about if something needed to be done.

In the end, I went for a walk. I took half an hour. I made sure I built in time for a coffee and a sandwich. Because the thing is that whilst a medical professional may a prognosis, and an idea as to how much time someone has, it is ultimately just that. They may go days. They may go months. And you have to be in a place where you can do what you need to do for them, whilst keeping yourself going in the long term.

There’s no perfect words or advice here of course. If you’re in the midst of anything close to what I’ve described, you know that already. But I think the other thing is – and this article is part of that – is to talk. To chat about the difficult things, about the stuff that, sadly, most of us will face at some point.

The best to you all. Please look after yourselves. This column will return next week.

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