Updated deathbed etiquette guide| from The Art of Dying Well at St. Mary's University, London

The choice to be at the bedside of a loved one at end of life is challenged by COVID-19. An existing guide for families has been updated in response.

Here are the main points:

  • Do what you can to help you feel close to your loved one even if you are apart: maybe look at photographs, or listen to a favourite piece of music.
  • Think about what your loved one would think and say: they will not want you to worry. They would want you to stay safe and understand why you are not there.
  • Communicating virtually may be an option: try to make sure they have access to a phone/tablet so they can call those important to them. Also try to make eye contact in these calls as sometimes no words are needed, just being in each other's company may be enough.
  • What can I say? Speak from the heart. Those last words are important for both of you
  • Trust in the good care of the doctors and nurses: they are there for your loved one and for you. They will do everything they can for everyone in their care
  • Take care of yourself: it is important that you keep well. Make room for something that gives you joy each day
  • Draw on your inner strength: do what is helpful to you. Remember things that have helped you get through bad times before and give you strength
  • Don't let feelings of guilt take over: accept your feelings and let them pass. Guilt is a natural symptom of loss. Think of good advice you may tell others and take it yourself.
  • Keep up with family, friends and those who will lift your spirits: be honest, tell them how you feel and do not be afraid to ask for help from others and professionals.


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