Preparing for a Loved One's
by Venerable Thubten
In the weeks or months before they die:
- Express your positive feelings for
them. Tell them you love them (write a letter if you can't speak
with them directly.). Don't wait until they are no longer there to
discover and express your love.
- Encourage them to share their love and
kindness with others. Help them remember all of the love and
kindness that they have given and received from others during
- Encourage them to remember the beneficial
things they did in their life.
- If they express regrets, listen with
- Clear up your relationship with them. If you
need to forgive them or apologize to them, do that. If they
apologize to you accept their amends.
- Encourage them to forgive whomever they need
to forgive and to apologize to whomever they need to apologize to.
- Encourage family members to do kind things to
help the dying family member.
- Talk about end-of-life issues -- "living
will," medication, religious services, burial or cremation, etc.
-- if and when they are willing to do so. Let go of your own
agenda of what you want them to talk about or how you want them to
die. Listen to them with your heart. Talk about what they want to
talk about, not what you think they should think about.
- Let the person tell you how much (if any)
pain medication they need. Since the person is terminal, there's
no need to be concerned with addiction. On the other hand, avoid
sedating them more than is needed.
- Get in touch with your own issues about
death, and use your Dharma practice to help you work with them.
At the time of death:
- Make the room as quiet and peaceful as
- Be peaceful and calm. Avoid crying in the
- Mentally give them a heartfelt hug and let
them know of your love for them, but do not cling or encourage
them to cling.
- If it seems necessary, remind them that their
children and other family members will be all right after they
- If person is of another faith, talk to them
in the language of that faith -- use words, symbols, and concepts
that are familiar to them. Encourage them to have faith and to
generate a kind heart towards others. If they are not religious,
talk about compassion or loving-kindness. That will help their
mind to be calm and peaceful.
- Recite mantra or say prayers for them,
quietly or out loud, depending on what is appropriate, as they are
- Don't do anything to bring up distress (old
- Frequently the person who is about to die
will wait to die until family members have left the room and they
are either alone or with someone who is not family. Don't feel
that you "did something wrong" or abandoned them if they die while
you are not there.
- Remember: you can't prevent anyone from
- Trust them in their process and be
- Tell surrounding family members that we are
fond of them (we love) them. Say thank you to them
- If it is possible, allow the body to be
untouched for three days after breathing has stopped in order to
give time for the consciousness to leave the body. This usually
needs to be pre-arranged with the hospital or family. Do not touch
the body during this time. If the body starts to smell or if you
see fluid come from the nostrils, it indicates that the
consciousness has left and the body may be moved before the three
days are up. If it is not possible to leave the body untouched for
that long (it often isn't), then leave it untouched for as long as
possible. When you first touch it, touch it at the crown of the
- After the person has died, first touch their
crown (top of the head) and say, "Go to the pure land" or "Take a
precious human rebirth." Or, according to their faith, say, "Go to
heaven or to a safe place."
- Dedicate for them to have a precious human
rebirth: May they have each and every conducive circumstance to
practice everything they need for enlightenment. Pray that their
transition to the next life is free from fear or anxiety. Express
in words or in your thoughts all the good wishes you have for
Meditation and Prayers to Do After a Dear One
After a dear one dies, it is very
beneficial for people who are close to him/her to do prayers and
meditations on that person's behalf. These are described below. It
is also helpful to offer his/her possessions to the poor and needy,
and to make offerings to temples, monasteries, or Dharma centers.
You may also request people there to do meditations and prayers for
Do the Chenresig practice (Pearl
of Wisdom, book II, page 1, or follow the audio tape) Visualize
your dear one in front of you, with Chenresig on their head. As you
recite the mantra, visualize much light and nectar from Chenresig
flowing into them, completing purifying all obscurations,
negativities, distress, disturbing attitudes, negative emotions,
fear, etc., and bringing all enlightened qualities -- love,
compassion, generosity, wisdom, etc. If you prefer to do this
meditating on the Buddha, then refer to the "Meditation on the
of Wisdom, book I, page 32, or follow the audio tape).
At the end, dedicate for the happiness and
enlightenment of all sentient beings and especially pray:
May ______ have a precious human life. May
he/she meet fully qualified Mahayana spiritual guides, have all
conducive circumstances for practice, generate the three principal
aspects of the path (the determination to be free, the altruistic
intention, and wisdom realizing emptiness), and quickly become a
Buddha. Through my Dharma practice, may I benefit this person,
leading him/her on the path to enlightenment. By my practice
becoming stronger and purer, may I be able to teach this person the
Dharma in future lives.
If you wish, you can also recite "The
Extraordinary Aspiration of Samantabhadra" (Pearl
of Wisdom, book II, page 48) for the person. The practice of the
Medicine Buddha can also be done.
Since family and friends have a strong
connection with the person, their doing meditation and dedications
for them is important. If you can do these on the 7th, 14th, 21st,
28th, 35th, 42nd, and 49th days after their death, it is especially