How to Talk to Someone who is Dying.  November 12, 2020

Talking about dying can be hard for a lot of people. Some even avoid the conversation altogether. Not talking about death becomes harder to ignore when someone you love or care for is the one who is dying. How do you talk to someone who is dying?

No matter your personality, race or social class one thing we all have in common is that we will eventually die. Everyone hopes and almost expects that they live a long happy life and die at a ripe old age. We all know that it doesn’t always turn out that way. 

Talking about Death is intimidating

Talking about death can be very hard and it leaves many of us feeling unsure and fearful of where to start. You will never forget the moment when you learn of a loved one’s terminal diagnosis. Maybe it was even your own. This type of life changing news is so hard for anyone and brings on a wide range of emotions. Sadness, desperation, fear to name a few. Not only are you in shock from your own grief but it is a whole new thing when you communicate with the one who is the one who only has a short time to live. 

Where do I start?

Do you tell them you’re sorry? Maybe try to comfort them and try to ease their fears. Certainly you can’t tell them it’s going to be okay? Finding the right words to say to someone who is dying is a difficult task and something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It is also something that should be done. It is not at all uncommon to just avoid the topic or avoid the person altogether which may alleviate your own discomfort but is much more hurtful than any mistakes you may make in the conversation.

DO’s and Don’t when Talking to Someone who is Dying


Be sensitive to their needs/boundaries

Ask them what they are comfortable talking about

Listen without trying to solve the problem

Don’t be afraid of tears yours or theirs

Ask what they need from you and how you can help the rest of their life be as comfortable as possible

Have no regrets in letting them know how much they mean to you


Be afraid to talk to them

Avoid vulnerability 

Leave anything unsaid or undone

Make it about you.

Often people who know that they are dying to end up being the one who comforts others. It is amazing the strength it takes and somehow super naturally many who have come to terms with their own death are the ones holding everyone else together.


Feeling guilty about your own feelings when it is another whose life is being cut short can cause guilt. When it comes to how you talk to someone who is dying, stay connected. Just be there for them, ask them what their needs and desires are. Help them to feel loved, valued and connected in whatever time they have left.

Just like in any relationship, communication is key. While you are both grieving the loss before it has happened, keeping the lines of communication as open as possible. Seek out additional grief support for your loved one as well as yourself. 


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