Supporting Your Loved One at the End Stage of Life

“And then we ease him out of that worn-out body with a kiss, and he’s gone like a whisper, the easiest breath.”
~ Mark Doty


Welcome to the second post in my Wednesday series on death and dying.

Today I’d like to talk about the end stage of life, and what you might expect as a loved one or carer. Death is something we have become less familiar with in our modern, western world. Most of us are quite removed from the process of dying, and of being with the dead after death has occurred.

I’ve been privileged to sit with and support over thirty people now as they transitioned from this world and this has taught me a great deal about the process of the letting go of our physical bodies.

I have learned that we each die in our own way, and in our own time. Someone who dies quickly, as a result of an accident or sudden illness will have a different journey to someone who is dying slowly – such as might happen with a terminal illness or old age.
The only thing that’s ever important is to help the dying person to be as comfortable as possible, to touch and reassure them, and to be with them. Love and care is what matters.
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The physical aspects of dying:
As a person enters this last stage they gradually begin to withdraw from the activities of daily life, even things that once held interest for them. They begin to sleep more. Conversation often becomes taxing. Appetite decreases and then leaves. There is simply less energy as the body begins to slow down and then shut down. They will become less responsive to your touch. Less responsive to your voice. Even in the middle of all of this the dying person may rally and be more ‘with it’ for periods of time. They may engage with you, or regain a little appetite. These windows of clarity and strength are quite normal. But they are windows. Please do not raise your hopes that this is a sign of some dramatic turn-around.
I have seen a woman who had been unresponsive for days suddenly become alert and sit up in bed for a final conversation with her brother, who had travelled for two days from across the globe to be at her bedside. She died shortly after, peacefully and easily.
The morning before my grandmother Marga’s death she was suddenly hungry, after days with little or no food or liquid. She ate one last meal of a few small mouthfuls of soft food – a soup, a little of some lamb roast and vegetables, followed by stewed apple and custard. She enjoyed it immensely, telling us over and over again that it was good. Food had always been one of my grandmother’s great pleasures. Then she talked with my mother and sister and I for an hour or so, breathless and fragile as she was, to tell us that she was surprised to still be ‘here’ and alive. She had been sure she was ‘almost gone’. A day later, she was.
As a person moves towards death their digestion closes down, swallowing becomes difficult, bowel and bladder function changes and slows (there can be loss of bowel and bladder function), and eventually they will only want just a sip of water, or a sponge soaked in a soothing liquid to moisten the mouth and lips. You can also use a balm to keep the lips moist. The body no longer needs nourishment. This is normal, and part of the withdrawal process.
The eyes become heavy lidded, or may stay half-open. The mouth might gape open too. Everything is relaxing and letting go. Your loved one’s skin tone will change. They may become mottled. They may become more pale, more ashen, more waxen. They may become momentarily hotter, or colder. Their skin may feel much cooler to the touch. Your loved one may look much less like themselves.
Closer to death the breathing becomes laboured and the mucous thickens, which can create congestion in the airways or mouth. Breathing can become noisy, and a rattling noise is quite common. This is often referred to as the death rattle, and is an indication that the end of life is very near. Breathing will become erratic, until a breath is taken only every so often. Eventually breathing will cease. This can take some time. It is not painful for the dying person, but it may sound scary or distressing to friends and family who have not been with a dying person before.
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On a metaphysical level:
 As your loved one moves closer to dying they move in and out of a place where they can feel, see, hear and connect with souls who have already crossed over. This is a very comforting and reassuring space. I have heard some doctors and nurses pass this phenomena off as ‘hallucinations’, but as a psychic, I know this is not true. (More information on this, and on people with dementia and alzheimers here.)
Some people use the end of their life, over weeks or days, as a time of review. In their dreams, in their mind, in their inner journey they go back to people and places long since gone, to make sense of what has happened, or to make peace with what has gone before. While they are doing this they will seem to be sleeping most of the time, or rambling in their thoughts and words. Please support and love them as they journey. Don’t try to criticize, correct or judge them, or tell them that what they are experiencing isn’t real. For them it is, and it is an important and healing part of their journey.
The act of death itself is simply a shedding of the skin, and a return to another way of existing. The act of dying and the transition back to being ‘a soul’ is always, in the end, a joyful and love-filled one.
Metaphysically you can help by sending love and light to the dying person. Feel the love move from your heart to theirs. Surround them with white light, or whatever other colour feels good to you. You can also call upon God (or whatever you know that energy as), your loved one’s guides, angels and others who have already crossed over (such as family members or friends) – to come and support and guide your loved one for this final part of their journey. Tell them that it’s okay, and that they can go whenever they are ready. Remind them of the great love that is here on earth for them, and that will greet them where they are going next.
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What can you do to support your loved one?

Simply, just be with them. Hold their hand, sit in their space, touch them and let them feel you near them. You might want to stroke their hair, or press a cool, damp cloth to their forehead and arms. Moisten their mouth for them. Rearrange their pillows. You might want to massage some cream into their skin or brush their hair. 

Talk with them, even if you think they can’t hear you. They can. Please keep talking when it feels right –  even when someone is in their final hours and are non-responsive they hear you. Speak quietly and soothingly. No abrupt noises or movements, and keep the room lighting soft so that the person doesn’t startle.

It’s okay to cry and show emotion. It’s also very normal to laugh and to reminisce. There is often no need for words at all.

Do tell your loved one that you love them. Let them know you are there. Let them know you care.

If it feels right to talk, share some happy memories. Talk about things you have shared together over the years. Tell them about the things you learned from them. What have they passed on to you? Why are you a better person because of them? What can you acknowledge about them that you respect or admire?

Tell them about yourself. Share your life. If there are issues between you say what needs to be said with a spirit of forgiveness and kindness.

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Even when we have had a difficult relationship with someone it helps both people to be able to find something that you can share which helps the dying person to feel that their life had purpose and that somehow, in some small way they were loved, made a difference or were noticed in a positive way. We all need to know that we matter.

It’s also enough just to be in their space, just to sit with them, just to be by their side. Read a book, curl up beside them, it doesn’t matter what you do – it matters that you are there.

It’s okay to say goodbye. Whether yours will be a short visit, or a long period of support, saying goodbye is a soothing and healing thing to do, for both of you, no matter how hard that goodbye might be.

Let your loved one know that it’s okay for them to go. Reassure them. Sometimes they will linger, hanging on for you. I’ve seen many a person pass after their loved ones have left the room. It’s okay to let your loved one know that you are leaving the room. It might be what they need to finally let go.

Above all, ensure that your loved one is comfortable. There is no need for anyone to be in pain, and there are so many options to help you and your loved one manage this final transition so that dying and death are pain-free.

Make sure you look after yourself in all of this too. Take a break if you need one. Ask for help. Call on doctors, nurses and care-givers. Step away when it gets too much. Remember to eat, and to get enough sleep.

If you would like to use essential oils, I have found Young Living’s Peace and Calming soothing for everyone in the room. Place a drop on the back of the hands or the inside of the wrists of your loved one, and a drop on the chest or the back of the neck. A little on the edge of the ear is good too. If you don’t have this oil Lavender essential oil will do nicely.

If there is distress in your loved one (or yourself) use Lavender and Frankincense. Apply a drop of each of these at the wrists, temples, back of neck, throat, heart, and soles of feet.

Yes, you can use all three of these oils together.

Use these oils hourly, or follow your intuition. They can truly transform a situation, and help bring peace and comfort at what can be an emotional and difficult time for everyone in the room. I used this combination when my friend Angela passed over last year, and the difference they made – for Ange, for her loved ones, and for the nursing staff – was truly remarkable.

The combination of Lavender and Frankincense also helps the soul to let go.



I truly believe that death is not the end of our being.  I know that love endures. I am looking forward to sharing more of what I know of this journey, and I’m sure you will find it comforting.

Thanks for reading. Next week I’ll be talking about sitting with a person after they die, and what happens in these moments after death for the person who died. If you have any questions you’d like me to cover in this series, please contact me here on the blog or at

Wherever you are, go in peace today, and know that you are in my thoughts, prayers and meditations. I’m wishing you well. I’m sending you love,

Nicole <3 xoxo



A Short Blog Series on Death and Dying

“I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who’s dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.”
~ Neil Gaiman, The Sandman


As a society I don’t think we do death very well. It’s not talked about. We try to pretend that it doesn’t happen, and often, sadly, we try to keep it all behind closed doors – either for ourselves or for a loved one.

I’m no stranger to dying, and I’ve come to know death from a number of perspectives. I’ve had my own prognoses of numbered days several times in the past twenty years. From heart issues to life-threatening infections and multi-organ failure, death and I have looked each other in the eye. I have held the knowledge and the feeling of dying within me as I have struggled to keep living.

I’m still here. But that dark bird still sits on my shoulder, and I have learned to travel with that extra weight and the gifts of perspective that this brings. Among my friends are others who have dark birds of their own. We share a special language without words, because we know – we live with this extra awareness, and we have watched others go before us and leave this world. Once the dark bird has visited you, everything changes.

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The Common Raven, by George Hodan. Image from

I’ve come to know dying from having been at the deathbed of over thirty people now, as they’ve made their transition from this life. I’ve talked about death with them as their days diminished from endless to numbered. As they’ve grappled with the news of their impending demise and the knowledge that time has almost run out. I’ve cried with them. And laughed. I’ve talked of living, even as they are dying, and helped them to make plans about the things that mattered most.

As their final hours have arrived I’ve held their hand and stroked their hair and anointed them with oils. I’ve whispered in their ear, and cradled them in my arms and helped them to no longer be afraid. I’ve created a safe space for them and for their loved ones who were with them for this last past of the journey. I’ve witnessed as their last breath left their lungs, as their heart stopped beating, as they moved from life to death, and then beyond.

I’ve helped to plan or even officiate over funerals and memorials. I’ve celebrated the passing of many a loved one, with all of those who were left behind.

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Forest Light – Image by Rayma Devins.  Image from

The final perspective I have on death is as a psychic. I have watched what happens to a person’s soul and to their energies as they begin the journey of transition. I have witnessed death and spoken to souls in the moments, minutes and hours after their physical end. I have communicated with souls who have long passed from our world. I have connected with the dying via dreams. One precious soul even showed me his passing by sharing those last hours of life and those first moments of death and beyond with me as I supported him via meditation. I have learned so much about the enduring nature of our souls after death, and the power of love to transcend dimensions and boundaries of time and place.

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Image from

Right now I have a number of friends and clients who are facing the imminent passing of an elderly parent, or a terminally ill child or life partner. There are a couple of friends and clients who have been given their own recent diagnosis of a life-ending condition.

This is the territory of my daily life – providing support in these situations. It’s endless, because it is part of the cycle of life. People who know me well understand that I am always walking with death, and in service to that transitioning, although I may not mention it to those still firmly in the flow of life.

So, in response to a number of recent questions about death and dying, I’ve decided to write a short series of blog posts to help these friends and clients, and any of you who are (or will one day be) in this situation so that you can provide support to your own loved ones, and feel comforted in understanding that the end of life can become a beautiful space, after which the soul simply moves to a different state of existence – and yes, continues to exist. If you are one of those friends with a dark bird on your shoulder we can talk about how to live even as you are dying, and what things you may want to consider, of both a practical and a spiritual nature.

I’ll begin next Wednesday. But before that, if you have any questions that you’d like me to answer in this series, please contact me by leaving a comment below, or emailing them to

I would be honoured to help in any way possible.

As always, I am holding you in my thoughts, prayers and meditations, Nicole <3 xx

Remembering Nana…

Nana, with my Dad

My beloved Nana passed away, quietly, gently, while I was far away from home. She took her last breath peacefully on the morning of November 16. 2012.  Slipping gracefully from her body, she flew off on her fairy wings (everyone who knew Joycie knew she had fairy wings!) to join all of our loved ones who have made the journey before her.

I didn’t learn of her passing until the next day.  But I woke on the 16th with such a feeling of heavy melancholy. I couldn’t work out what was wrong with me – I just felt miserable – flat and soul weary.  Hug me, I told my husband. I’m so sad and I don’t know why.

Later that day I thought of Nana often. It was all the frangipani flowers here on Koh Samui. My grandparents spent a happy portion of their lives in Papua New Guinea, and long after they were home in Australia, Nana would always tell me that frangipani blossoms reminded her of those happy days in PNG.

At breakfast the next morning I received a text from my Dad. There were tears, but all day I felt close to my Nana as I walked around this island paradise.

I thought of her as I sipped pretty cocktails, I thought of her as I swam in the ocean, I thought of her as I napped on clean sheets under the fan.

She’d lived a full and wonderful life. She taught me more than I can say. And I like to think of her now, up in Heaven, or where ever it is we go as Souls once our time here on Earth is done. Nana will have on a stylish frock. She’ll be having tea with her Mum or Happy Hour drinks with Pa and their friends. She’ll be waving hello from her fluffy cloud, and I’ll be waving back at her, sand between my toes, a drink in my hand, and a smile on my face.

Life is magical. Nana showed me that! Bless ♥ xx

The Power of a Father’s Love

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 “Life is the first gift, love is the second, and understanding the third.” ~ Marge Piercy

One night, in the middle of 2010, I was on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean. It was late, and we had been asleep for some hours. The room phone rang, waking us up.  When  I answered there was no-one on the end of the line. I hung up, groggy and disoriented, turned over and went back to sleep.

The phone rang again.

Again I answered it. No-one there. I hung up, cranky to have been woken a second time.

For the next two hours the phone kept ringing. Of course there was no-one on the end of the line. In frustration my husband pulled it out of the wall.

Then my cell phone rang. In the middle of the ocean. Miles from having any sort of reception. I fumbled for it and then gave up in disgust as once again there was no-one on the line.

And then had a realisation.

“Someone’s trying to contact me,” I said to my weary and shaken husband. We both knew what I meant.  A psychic thing.

“I’m going outside to do a meditation,” I told him. Wrapping a robe around me I went out onto the balcony and perched on a sunlounge. Soon I was deep in meditation, asking for guidance around what had just happened. Nothing came for a long time, and I pulled my robe closer as the air cooled before dawn.

Image by Thinkstock

Suddenly in quick succession I saw a single vehicle accident on a country road as a series of jolted images – sliding, rolling, slamming into a tree. It was so real I could smell the metallic tang in the air, the dust, and the blood. It was as if I were in the driver’s seat, and then somehow I was standing there, beside the mangled car. Steeling myself, I bent to look through the window.

A moan came from behind me.  I whipped my head around.

I knew his face, but I couldn’t place him. He looked so lost, so broken, and I found it very hard to breathe. It came to me slowly. He was the husband of a client.  I’d never met him, but I’d seen his photo, maybe two years before. The same man was standing on the road. With a sickening feeling I understood.  He was dead.

I don’t do dead people, I thought to myself, feeling panicked. Come on guys, I don’t DO dead people.

It all went black. Like the lights going out in a cinema. My husband was shaking my shoulder. “Come on honey, you’re freezing.  Come inside and have a shower.  We’re meeting for breakfast in half an hour.”

I shook my head. “I can’t do it. Can you meet them?”  We were supposed to be breakfasting with friends, but I was hollow, shaken and distressed. And I knew I still had unfinished business somehow.

Ben gave me one of those looks. Loving, understanding, unhappy all at once. “You okay?” he asked.

“Not really.”

“No. Neither am I. That was the freakiest thing. What’s going on?”

“I don’t know. A  car accident I think.” I felt terrible for Ben.  Here I was on holidays and I was still working, my world affecting his, intruding on what was supposed to be a well-earned break.

After Ben left I took a warm shower and then dressed and settled back into meditation again, propped up in bed with the blankets over my legs. This time my entry back into that strange space was unsettlingly quick.

The man was where I’d left him, pacing up and down on the baking bitumen beside his wrecked car. “I need you to call my wife,” he said.

My heart began racing. Nicole, none of this is real, I told myself.  “You’re dead,” I said stupidly to the man.

“Yes.” He calmed down. “But it’s okay.”

In fact he was calmer than me. I was still feeling the horror and trauma of his passing.

He put his hand on my shoulder and a warmth flooded through me. “Call my wife. Not about me,” he added, “it’s about our daughter. Our youngest daughter. Please.  It’s urgent.”

I nodded yes. What else could I do? A picture flashed into my mind of a tiny baby girl, perhaps a year old. She was shallow breathing in a small crib. I felt a fluttering flooding feeling in my chest.

Father and daughter – by Emilia Pawlikowska

“My daughter’s dying,” he continued. “It’s her heart, she’s got a hole in her heart. I can see it now. She was sleepy all the time, and losing weight, and our family doctor said she was fine.  But we still thought there was something wrong. She just wasn’t thriving. She was fussy and wouldn’t eat. And then she began to have blue fingernails. So my wife took her to the hospital. The doctors there sent her home. They said she was just cold.”

“Please,” he said again.  “I can’t reach her. I can’t reach my wife. I tried, and then I thought of you. You have to call my wife and get her to take our daughter to the hospital. She needs to go right away. She needs to make the doctors understand. My wife will listen to you. Call her!”

I snapped back into my body abruptly, my open eyes trying to take in our room. Lurching off the bed I opened my laptop, scrolling through my old emails.  Finally I found her name and the contact details she’d submitted via my website. I checked my cell phone. There was one bar of service.  I stepped back out onto the balcony. There was land sliding by us. My signal managed to get a little stronger and I dialled the number with a shaking hand.

It was one of the hardest phone calls of my life.

But because of a father’s love and persistence a little girl was able to have open heart surgery, and now can lead a healthy life.

I spent the rest of my day sitting on the balcony, looking out over the ocean and being grateful for solitude. My darling husband told our friends I was unwell, and gave me the space I needed to pull my head back together.

And the next day Barcelona opened her arms to me, and I gave myself over to her healing charms.

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