A Guide to Visiting the Dying

Connecting to a loved one at a challenging time


Why this guide is needed

From the perspective of the dying person:

Generally, anyone who is ill appreciates having visitors, and perhaps especially so when they are dying. Otherwise they may feel cut off from the ‘normal’ world and that can create a sense of being excluded from ‘the living club.’ To know that we are loved and valued in spite of no longer being able to fill most of the roles we once had is hugely reassuring. Conversely, when friends seem to have forgotten us or no longer call it can be hurtful and increase our sense of alienation.

From the side of friends and relatives:

From the side of friends and relatives, however much we may love our dying friend or relative, spending time with them in their last days can be confronting. In the past, people were cared for by their family and community. With death becoming increasingly medicalised and the dying assigned to institutions, – primarily hospitals – most of us have little experience of what dying entails and how to be with a dying person.

We might be apprehensive about visiting a dying person because we:

  • Don’t know what to say
  • Fear causing upset or being seen as upset
  • Think we need to have all the answers e.g. know how to reassure the person, understand what happens when someone is dying and even after death
  • Imagine that others have more right to visit
  • Are unsure as to whether our friend or their family wants us to visit
  • Cannot visit at the times available or fear any involvement might impinge on our time
  • Have some unfinished emotional business with the dying person that we don’t want to address
  • Are fearful of confronting our own death


Download and read our Guide for help with:

  • Supporting a loved one (or anyone) at possibly the most challenging time in their life
  • Facing your own fear of death and through that appreciating your life more
  • Dealing with your own emotions and perhaps a sense of helplessness
  • Appreciating the emotional state of the dying person and issues that may be arising for him or her plus links to additional resources
  • Understanding acceptance and denial of death
  • How to be with and tune into someone who is seriously ill or dying
  • The importance of being yourself and letting the person know you love them/how much they mean to you/how you have benefitted from knowing them
  • Accessing further information on our website on how to support the seriously ill and/or dying

Our Guide includes the sections:

  • Potential concerns about visiting the dying
  • Planning your visit
  • Practical aspects of visiting
  • At the bedside
  • Ending the visit
  • Additional support from more frequent visitors
  • Additional reading

Even if you don’t currently know someone who is dying, we recommend downloading and reading our short Guide now – it will most likely be revealing to you and chances are, you will find an opportunity to recommend it to someone else even if you yourself do not need it for some time.

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