I remember Back when I was a Christian, When a person was on their death bed with a terminal illness perhaps, I would ignorantly tell them to Pray and have faith in God.
As a Non Believer of only 2.5 years I was wondering how we as non believers comfort and support friends and love ones during a terminal illness or injury. How do you encourage this person about the end of life and eternity?
Please Tell me how would you handle this or how have you handled this situation in the past.
Tidy up loose ends, contact those you wish to say good bye to, make any necessary apologies or explanations, make sure your will is current, plan your funeral and make sure the money is available to cover it. If there are people you love, make sure they know, make sure any pets will be taken care of, ensure you have appropriate palliative care in place, there is no need to be in pain, but also be aware that pain management can rob you of clear thought. Anything you want to do and still can, do it.
I would do my best to reassure them that their wishes were carried out. On my mother's death bed we spent a good deal of time letting her know about future plans or concerns that we wanted her to know we would take care of. I talked to her about her dog and me goin to grad school.
I've done this a few times, and I found the best thing to do is laugh with them when they want to laugh and cry with them when they want to cry. And then call them 'pussies' while you are mopping up your own tears. That leads back to the laughter. Afterlife, oddly, hasn't doesn't come up much. I asked an older friend of mine what he thought happened. and that was how I found out he was an atheist of sorts. He had done some bad things in his life, though, so I always wondered if he was an atheist for the fear of where he would go if there was an afterlife. If he had been healthy, I would have had this debate with him, because I am a bastard that way.
I think just being there is the important part, supporting them through this part of life. We all have our beliefs, it doesn't trump love.. If they want to talk about religion, listen. You can tactfully say that although you haven't come to the same conclusions about religion, you hope the afterlife they seek is every bit as amazing as they envision it to be.
The only thing that got me over my dad's death was noticing the parts of my character that are very obviously from him, whether that be philosophies shared, or biological habits that were natural to both of us. Knowing that pieces of him are living in me in some way, and working out ways to honor his memory - it's comforting to know.
I think the most important thing you can do is to spend time with them and make your love felt in their lives. My parents both died in 2017 and we were able to spend time with my Mom when she was in hospice. She was glad that we were there and it helped us to to be able to take care of her during her final days. When my Dad got his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer we went out and spent Thanksgiving week with him. Nothing can replace spending time with loved ones facing death.
I just focused on the moment on whatever they needed at that time. If it was just to be present that was it, if it was coffee or any other little thing made sure it was there.
Mostly followed their lead. I'd let myself cry here and there but if the need to cry my head off swept over me would leave the room.