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How do you comfort someone who is very ill, maybe dying, from a Buddhist viewpoint ?

All the usual that anyone would. Hugs. Words of comfort. Love. Kindness. I know that.

Do we have other, additional, aspects that we can add as Buddhists ? A perspective on eternity ? Our never dying non-selves, joining the cosmos ? That something can never become nothing, on a pure physical level ? All to be provided at the right time, obviously. Sensitive times, calling for serious compassion.

This is really needed here, hoping for some words of help.



  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    Hi @Alex - is the person in question Buddhist?

    If not, maybe steer clear of Buddhist speak. Maybe just speak about all the good the person has done and about letting go. Anyone can relate to that.

  • AlexAlex UK Veteran

    Hi @Bunks no they’re not a Buddhist, but they are incredibly close to me and know where I’m at, as it were. Thanks for your words, they’re very poignant and massively helpful 🙏

  • AlexAlex UK Veteran

    I think that maybe, sometimes, just being there, holding their hand, is enough.

  • KeromeKerome Certainty is the enemy of wonder The Continent Veteran

    I think @bunks got it right — it is good to talk about fulfilment, about the fact they have done all they can and they have the love and compassion of those close to them, and that they shouldn’t be afraid of letting go of everything. Death is the time you let go of all your attachments, you are leaving the whole world behind, and by loosening those ties beforehand you can make it a little less painful to actually do.

    I would advise anyone contemplating death to spend some time reading about near-death experiences, I’ve found it inspiring and also it tells you a little about how death may just be another step on the journey.

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Listen. And read between the lines.

  • Sensitive times, calling for serious compassion.

    The form is dependent on their needs, not ours.

    Being available with the normal human qualities and responses mentioned.

    ... of practice (thinking of them)

    Om Bekandze Bekandze Maha Bekandze
    Radza Samudgate Soha

  • marcitkomarcitko Explorer
    edited February 2020

    What I would try to do was to to talk about whatever they wanted to talk about and let the Buddhism rest if not mentioned.

    I've been in hospital several times (granted not in mortal danger). Visits were beautiful, just being together was enough. Cherish the opportunity to let the social persona take a rest and engage in a deeper attitude (which could manifest as simple talk too). And don't be that person who is more bummed out than the sick person - some people think they have a duty to be so, as if being normal would show a lack of care 😀

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    With the primary and important caveat that (a) everyone is different, and (b) you have to be able to recognise and pick the moment;
    Sometimes, straight-talking helps.
    My H used to attend university, studying Law and had a fellow student was a paraplegic. Confined to a wheelchair and unable to write for himself, he used a scribe and had a carer with him at all times.
    One day, my H, following him through a doorway, urged him to "come on, get that wheelie bin out of the way, some of us have got work to do!"
    The wheelchair occupant laughed like a drain. "Fuck off," he replied, "Bin day's not 'til tomorrow, lucky me!"

    I'm not in any way suggesting you make light, or mock.
    But what @marcitko advises, is sound as a pound.
    Be straight. Tell it like it is, as appropriately as is necessary. Be natural. Be kind. And just be there.

  • KeromeKerome Certainty is the enemy of wonder The Continent Veteran
    edited February 2020

    My experiences with dying people have always been about tying up loose ends: making sure they understood their foibles are forgiven, to give them love and wish them well on their journey. They often find it difficult to let go, of people, of relationships, and of the body. If you can be a steadying influence for them, it can help.

    I think a lot of it is about preparation. My father spent much time with my stepmother during the long illness before her death, and he often talked to her about meditation and how to leave the body, and about the Tibetan book of the dead. The funny thing is, he visited a medium who happened to be in town about six months after she died, and he was told there that she thanked him for his preparing her.

  • AlexAlex UK Veteran

    Well, thank you all, much appreciated. Some really helpful stuff in there. My life wheel is currently somewhat unbalanced on its axle, but I continue to pray that all will be well🙏

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