When you don’t know what to say

People often wonder what they should say to a person who is dying. It’s understandable that you don’t know what to say – what you feel might be so complex that it’s hard to find the right words, or any words at all. It is common to worry about saying the wrong thing. Most times, the person who is dying will find comfort in you being there, rather than feeling the need to find “the right words”.

You may want to say something that would help them cope but don’t know what that is. It’s usually better to say something than to pretend that nothing is wrong.

Someone who is dying will probably appreciate knowing that family and friends are thinking of them. Even if you feel you’re not doing anything, just being there sends the message that you care.

In her book The Etiquette of Illness, Susan Halpern suggests asking, “Do you want to talk about how you’re feeling?” rather than “How are you feeling?” This approach is gentle and less intrusive. It also gives the person the choice to respond or to say no.

  • Listen to what the person who is dying tells you. They may want to talk about dying, their fears or plans. Try not to prompt an answer that confirms what you think or your hope that things could be better. If you think they’d find it easier to talk to a spiritual care practitioner, offer to put them in touch with one.
  • Try to treat someone who is dying as normally as possible and chat about what’s happening in your life. This makes it clear that they’re still a part of your life.
  • Avoid talking in an overly optimistic way, for example, “You’ll be up in no time”. Such comments block the possibility of discussing how they’re really feeling – their anger, fears, faith and so on.
  • Apologise if you think you’ve said the wrong thing.
  • Let them know if you feel uncomfortable. They might be feeling uncomfortable too. It’s okay to say you don’t know what to say.
  • Accept that you or the person dying may cry or express anger. These are natural responses to a distressing situation.
  • Ask questions. Depending on how comfortable you feel asking direct questions and on their willingness to talk, you could ask, “Are you frightened of dying?” or you may prefer a softer approach, “I wonder whether there’s something you want to talk about?”
  • Encourage them to talk about their life, if they’re able to and interested. Talking about memories can help affirm that their life mattered and that they’ll be remembered.
  • Just be there. Sometimes it’s the companionship that is most appreciated – sit together and watch television or read.
  • Even if they’ve shown no religious interest in the past, that could change as death approaches. You could offer to pray together, but respect their wishes if this is not something they want.

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To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

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  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
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Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.


This information was last reviewed in January 2020
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