Mom's Dying Alone And It's Unbearable

Dear Barbara, Being a nurse for 39 years has not prepared me for the emotional pain of watching my mother fade away. Due to Covid we are not allowed to visit her. Zoom calls weekly have helped. I’m having a tough time not being able to be there with my Mom. We will be allowed to come into the nursing home when she starts to actively die. How can we better cope with this new reality?

Having a mom in the dying process is a challenge in itself. Having a mom in the process of dying during Covid restrictions is almost unbearable. I am so sorry this is the life situation your family is facing. 

Ideas: you might start keeping a journal. Write all of your thoughts and feeling down each day. You need an outlet for the frustration and feelings of helplessness that you have. Just getting them out, on paper, will help a bit. There is something relieving about channeling thoughts, feeling, tears, through your fingers onto paper.

Zooming is certainly helpful but know as she progresses toward death she will not be able to respond, even to know you.  Continue the zooming and talking to her even when she is non responsive. Have the nursing facility staff hold the phone or tablet in front of her so you can see her but then have them just put the speaker to her ear and you talk to her from your heart. She won’t respond and probably won’t show any signs that she is aware of what you are saying BUT know she hears. Have the nurse hold her hand as you talk and you say “This is my representative, Mom, I’m holding your hand. I am with you.”

A teacher once told me” thoughts are things”, so at home sit in your favorite chair, close your eyes, and picture yourself at your mom’s bedside. Hold her, lay with her, whatever is comfortable for you in your mind and then begin talking with her. Tell her whatever your heart leads you to do and say. 

Do this whenever you feel the need to talk with her. This “mind talking” doesn’t take the place of being there but it is powerful for us in a time of lost opportunities.

Something More...  about Mom's Dying Alone And It's Unbearable

Since your mother is in a nursing home, you may not be provided with education on what to expect during the dying process.  I suggest my End of life Guideline Series. This series is a compilation of my top five booklets covering the dying process, pain at end of life and the grief experience. You may also hop on Vimeo to view my video, NEW RULES for End of Life Care.

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C. Clausen

I whole-heartedly agree with Jennifer. I’ve been a hospice social worker for over 22 yrs. Our loved ones are not alone when they die. Those who have died before them are there to comfort them and show them the way. Read the poem in Barbara’s booklet, “Gone From My Sight.” Also, the book “Final Gifts” shares many stories of patients getting visitors that the rest of us don’t get to see. In my experience, once in a while pre-school aged children will see the visitors, as well as the pets in the home.


Hi Reina, you asked about grief while your mom is alive; of course you are grieving. You are not abnormal and what you are feeling is not unusual. Actually from the moment of diagnosis of a life threatening illness or from the moment we realize our special person is deteriorating and we think of their dying we begin grieving. Sometimes we are aware of our grief but often we don’t associate our discomfort with grief.
Living in this pandemic with all of the restrictions compounds your grief. Unfortunately you will have to adjust to the rules of social distancing. Make the most of Zoom and Facetime.
Also sit down at home, relax and picture your mom in your mind. Then talk with her, love her, in your mind hold her. Thoughts are things. It’s not perfect. It’s not actual physical contact but it is something.
My blessings are with you and your mom. Barbara


My mom is also living in a nursing home and has been fading for years. We (nurses, doc., family, and myself) are all amazed with her. I’ve read My Friend, I Care about the grieving experience, I’ve been grieving mom for the last 3-5 years even though she’s here, she’s so different. I try to stay in gratitude for all the time we’ve had together and how I can make her day better. Some days I’m just sad and frustrated, I let my tears heal my emotions. Hardest time of my life.


I feel we have done such a injustice to our elderly. There closest love ones should be able to visit. Noted I said love one’s not always a family member.


Covid has taken a toll on families that are loosing or have lost their loved ones. Just remember even if you are not with them when they pass they do not die alone. Working in Hospice I have witnessed several patients that have told me that their loved ones that have already passed are present with them now and are ready to take them home. I hope you find comfort and peace during this time.

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