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11 Things To Talk About With Your Loved One As They Approach The End Of Their Journey

It’s About The Journey 

When the time comes, it can be difficult to have open and meaningful conversations about your loved one’s end-of-life journey. There is no easy way to begin talking about the end. Here are some helpful suggestions of questions/topics you can ask your loved one to help get through these emotional moments: 

  1. How are you feeling? 
    • While this question might seem to have an obvious answer, it is often a wonderful starting point. This doesn’t just have to mean physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. The important aspect of asking this question is that it emphasizes the present and reminds both of you that your loved one is still with you. When my grandmother was a few years into her hospice care, I would call her often and ask her exactly that, “How are you feeling grandma?” She would either say how happy she was because she bought something off the TV shopping channel, or she would open up to me about her present feelings. Everyone is different, and my grandmother told me she wasn’t afraid to pass, and she had accepted it. She appreciated the opportunity to speak openly about where she was in life, which ultimately gave her and my family more peace.  
  1. What would you say is your greatest achievement?  
    • This question is essential because it gives the space for your loved one to reminisce about something they can forever be proud of. Perhaps they want to feel like YOU are proud of them. A question like this brings meaning and depth into the present moment as they look back on a time that gave them strength and pride. 
  1. What was one of your favorite adventures? 
    • Asking about the sights they have seen or places they have gone will create feelings of reminiscence as it reminds your loved one of the special moments they experienced. I appreciate this question a lot because it brings stories to mind that are perfect for sharing. For example, my grandpa always told us stories from when he had to travel for work. There was a time when he was traveling to different local gyms and ran into Arnold Schwarzenegger! They ended up lifting weights together during the time Arnold was bodybuilding. I’ll never forget that one! I also find this question perfect for you to laugh or comment with your loved ones as they chat with you about their adventures. 
  1. What advice has had the greatest impact on your life that you want me always to stand by and remember?  
    • Asking my grandmother for advice gave me the chance to learn from her. She always emphasized taking my time. She always told me to “stop and smell the roses” because time will pass by quicker than one can realize. Encouraging your loved one to leave you with the advice they have picked up along the way will allow them to feel valued and cherished as they should. It will also give you a special piece of their heart that you can carry with you always. 
  1. Can you recall a favorite childhood memory or moment? 
    • Recalling a favorite childhood memory is another perfect conversation starter. Taking the time to show interest in your loved one’s early life will make them feel heard and give them a chance to talk about their parents, siblings, home life growing up, favorite memories from trips, etc. This question can bring about many different conversations and perhaps remind you of something you recall from childhood too! My grandma always loved to chat about her sisters and brothers. She was the youngest and always shared stories with me about how cool she thought her older siblings were. Seeing her smile and thinking about her family and how they grew up in Ohio made me so happy.  
White and Green Plastic Toy
  1. Is there anything you suggest I do that you have done? (travel, etc.) 
    • This is one of my favorite questions because I love to hear the answer! There are so many responses your loved one could give you. It makes them feel like they inspire you, and it never hurts to be curious about their life! I always asked my grandma about her travels and where she recommended to go. Out of all the places, she would always tell me to go to Reno, Nevada. My grandpa took her to big jewelry shows there, which was always one of her favorite memories. She wanted me to go have fun where she once did! 
  1. When people think about you, what would you want them to remember most? 
    • Asking your loved one something like this creates emotional feelings about the legacy they will be leaving with your family. Although perhaps a more challenging question, it can be beautiful. They think about themselves and the value they bring to the world. There is an opportunity to listen to how they perceive themselves and show support.   
  1. Is there something you’ve always wanted to ask or know?  
    • Reflecting on questions such as this gives insight into what your loved one is curious about and is a great conversation starter. It also gets their creative gears turning, and their answer may surprise you! My grandma always wondered what living in a different country and culture would be like. She visited my family while I was young when we lived in Singapore and would always reminisce about those days pondering what her life would have been like had she lived somewhere outside of the United States. 
  1. Was there any moment that changed your life significantly? 
    • This is a perfect topic that can lead to a meaningful conversation together. Similar to question number 4, but instead of advice, you’re asking about a significant moment that could have altered the course of their life. Maybe it’s something they haven’t shared with you or something they must think about because it isn’t as apparent as you might assume. My grandpa, Henry, was in the Vietnam War, and he very seldom talked about it. This question could even be triggering to some folks but create a space for you to provide emotional support as your loved one opens up to you. We know Henry was a soldier, and quite honestly, that’s about it. There are a few photos of him from that time in his 20s, and when he passed, he had a veterans memorial. Men in uniform came to my grandma’s house, and they played on a trumpet while folding an American flag in his honor. 
  1. What do you think you were known for? 
    • A question I sometimes ask myself! This makes me smile because it can be anything: silly, funny, goofy, happy, wild, crazy, etc. Bringing your loved one joy as they think about the mark they left on this planet is simply awesome. I asked both my grandparents this, and here is what they had to say. Grandma Betty immediately said her jewelry and hair perms, while Grandpa Henry noted his love for food and bushy eyebrows (my mom was always trying to get him to cut them!!). In this sense, it was lighthearted and made them smile. I encourage you to ask your loved one this question and compare it with what YOU think they are known for! 
  1. Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable? 
    • You are essentially saying you are here for them. This is their time of need, and it is likely filled with some anxiousness, doubts, fears, and many questions. It takes time to accept one’s circumstances, even in old age when we know it’s coming. This question is about you being supportive and offering your time and help. Odds are they don’t want to ask, so offering out of love and kindness will make you both feel valued and appreciated! 

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