When Someone You Love Is Dying

My father-in-law died a couple weeks ago, and I think we’re still not quite believing it.

The hospice, the funeral, the boxing up of stuff and all the paperwork make this an incontrovertible experience.

It’s all the other stuff that doesn’t make sense.

How could this person who used to laugh, love, think, and feel just no longer BE here? In our hearts, yes, but as someone to see and talk with in front of our eyes, no.

Well. I’m not actually going to tackle life and death today. There was just something I wanted to pass along.

Where I work, we’re big on nonverbals. Big. How you move, how you stand, and where you place your hands can all make a difference in your care of someone.

We also pay attention to tone. How you say something can be even more important than what you say, especially if the person you’re talking to is distracted or otherwise can’t focus on or hear the actual words.

It’s not always easy to think about these things when it’s happening to you.


This lovely light is from toobstock.

So when my husband was concerned that his father might not even know that his wife or any of his sons were there at his hospice bed, I said, “Put your hand on his hand. Talk to him as you normally would, and use reassuring words such as ‘You’re going to a good place,’ ‘It’s okay to let go,’ and most importantly, ‘I love you.’ Say it even if you think he doesn’t hear. He’ll feel it all the same.”

I don’t think I have any great insight into these matters. I just wanted everyone to feel comforted. And I’ve seen over and over again what the power of touch alone can do.

So they did. They each held his hand. They each spoke the words they wanted to say.

And he responded.

Although he was drifting further and further into what we hoped was a soothing fog and hadn’t opened his eyes, when each of the sons held his hand and said, “I love you,” he said, “I love you, too.”

And when his wife of 60 years bent over him to kiss him, he responded the way he had for those 60 years, with their very special kisses: Three in a row.

He died three days later without coming back out of his twilight sleep.

When they played Taps at his funeral, it seemed like the saddest song in the world, but I held on to that memory of those last goodbyes.


If you’d like, please share moments you’ve had with loved ones.


Is Your Body Language Telling On You?

Body language, nonverbal communication, quirks, tics: What can you do if you’re going to be judged no matter how many glass houses are around you?

In 7 Things Your Body Language Is Telling Your Boss, the impression you give people–not just your immediate supervisor–can “make or break a deal, business relationship or even your financial success.”

To get to the 7 steps, click the link above. Your posture, handshake, tonal quality, colors you wear, and more can all convey messages you might not be aware you’re sending.

Here’s the soap box.

I’m not saying this information isn’t extremely useful. In our split-second world, we make split-second judgments all the time, often without even noticing–it just seems natural to us, and maybe it is. There’s nothing wrong with helping yourself succeed in the career world by paying attention.

I’d still like to think that we’ll evolve past such instantaneous judgments and damning decisions. It’s not that relying on our instincts isn’t a good call, it’s that seeing someone slouch shouldn’t instantly be evocative of their work ethic, nor should a bright and bubbly smile do the same.

For example, the picture I chose for this post came with a “serious young woman” caption. “Serious” connotes dedication, worth, and others. But to some, she could look disgruntled, off-putting, even mean. So much depends on what we bring to the situation from our own biases and experiences.

It’s worth remembering that you never know for sure what precipitating factors have gone into someone looking or acting the way they do in the limited time you see them in a limited setting, such as the workplace. You should also be aware of your own experiences that make you assign labels or perceptions to others.

When is a hug not a hug?


A new supervisor came into my cube one day and started giving me a shoulder rub. Unannounced, unasked, and unsolicited.

My reaction was immediate and instinctive: I completely stiffened up—and stayed that way.

She got the point after a few puzzled moments and stepped back, but she stood there for a few minutes more, just looking at me with hurt and disappointment all over her face. On my part, I felt defensive and then angry that she was the one feeling all upset when it was my personal space that had just been invaded!

All of this happened nonverbally, but quite a lot got across in those few moments, from personal space issues to body language. Could we both have handled it better? Sure. One thing’s clear: None of it should have happened in the first place.

That was in a previous job. I just went through some pretty intensive training for my new job, and something came up that really struck me:

When is a hug not a hug?
When it’s not wanted.

If someone hugs you and you want that hug, yes, it’s a hug.

But if you don’t want that hug, guess what: It’s a restraint.

Think that’s a little harsh? Restraint doesn’t just mean being put in handcuffs. It means all these things (thank you, freedictionary.com):

1. The act of restraining or the condition of being restrained.
2. Loss or abridgment of freedom.
3. An influence that inhibits or restrains; a limitation.
4. An instrument or a means of restraining.
5. Control or repression of feelings; constraint.

Take this example: You and your friends are goofing off and one of them suddenly puts you in a headlock. You’re pinioned in an awkward position. Now let’s say for the sake of argument that you don’t particularly like headlocks and you don’t know how to get out of them easily. How are you feeling at that moment? In control? Happy? Calm?

Whatever your trigger buttons are, however big your personal space bubble, I’d like to bet we all feel pretty much the same when we’re in a situation where we feel that loss of control, that anxiety, panic, loss of power and so on. Match that with how you feel when you’re told to chill and relax, it’s “just a hug” or “just goofing around.”

Remember this the next time you’re the one doing something the other person doesn’t like. Sure, it’s embarrassing when your well-meaning touch isn’t taken as such. Get over yourself. If it’s not a hug for everyone in that hug, it’s not a hug, period.

What’s your take on it?


lolcat pic from here.