Creating a Loving Space in Your Home or at the Hospital

“It seems like my child may be transitioning. I want to create a loving and supportive space for her and for our family. I know I need to take charge of the situation but it is just so difficult. I need support. I want our child’s passing to be peaceful and loving whether it happens at home or at the hospital. This may be the last loving thing I can do for my child.”

The time may come when the heart of your home or the hospital has centered on the bed of your little one. All energy, thoughts, and emotions whirl around that bed. Also, love and memories and tenderness surround that sacred space as well. This time of setting a sacred place for the passing of your child is often referred to as “the vigil”. (This period of time is similar to what we call “nesting” at the time prior to the birth of a baby.)


We focus our attention on the things that comfort us; we hunker down to a smaller space to get ready. This period of time may last for days, hours, or for some, tragically only minutes, depending on the circumstances.


Your child will be comforted by your presence and the simple gestures of your tenderness, such as a warm or cool washcloth to her forehead or a soft caress to her arms, back, or face. You might do a quiet reading of familiar stories or play her favorite music. Think about whether she prefers quiet or the sounds of activity and routines of daily life, such as the sounds of dogs, yard work, birds, friends playing outside, etc. Some families may choose to have spiritual readings shared at the bedside or read silently.


Rituals may be of comfort at this time. The settling rituals of bedtime are fitting, using the time wisely and intentionally knowing that it may be hastened along to the time of final goodbyes all too quickly.


Sitting vigil is a very loving gesture of attending to your child, a gift of gentleness and love that needs few words or could be many spoken while cuddling in bed. Ask for the privacy you feel you need whether at home or in a hospital setting.


This is a difficult and sad time. Just remember that you are steering this ship, which means that you decide who visits (who gets to share this special time) and for how long. It is fine and natural to be protective of this space and time. It is also perfectly fine to take control over the comings and goings or even put a sign at the door. This is the time to think of who might want to visit and share this time, and who might want a chance to “thank you”, “I love you”, “I am sorry”, “I am going to miss you”, etc.


Some children experience “seeing” or sensing “someone” in the room. It may be someone who has died before them or an unfamiliar person. This is almost always a comforting thing for children, who tend to have a very spiritual nature. It is not necessary to explain this experience or to necessarily understand it but try to support anything that brings her solace and peace. You can offer her your belief about what you feel is ahead for her if you think this might be comforting. It is like giving a hint of what you hope is next.


She may even need to hear, even if just by the silence of your heart sitting at her bedside, that it is okay to stop fighting, especially if she has gotten to the point where she is ready to “rest”. Your child may need to know it is okay, that she is not failing you, the doctor, or her family if she reaches the end of her reserves. Even for children with a strong faith background, it is very painful to let go of this life and move on to the unknown which is next. For you, it is the same; while she is nearing the end of life, you are holding on dearly with one hand but somehow finding the strength to let go with the other, knowing that as she passes on, it ends her struggle in this frail body.


A comforting thing to think about is the children’s book, The Kissing Hand…. Try kissing each other’s hands like in the story. First kiss your daughter’s hands and say, “Mommy loves you, Mommy loves you”. This symbolizes that she can take your love with her everywhere. All she has to do is remember the kissing hand, which does not wash off or wear away. Next, she kisses your hand and says, “I love you Mommy, I love you Mommy”. You will always have a memory of this ritual of her loving hands and yours and the promise that your love for each other lives on…


A piece of me I give to you,

This special heart because

“I love you.”

The heart is you, the hand is me,

It shows that we are

A Family.


Be still and know that you are giving her a loving and yet painful blessing by spending this time at her bedside, even though your heart is breaking. Each second will be etched in your mind. Spend it wisely and lovingly together, keeping the vigil of her life and her dying, of your beloved child forever.


Article contributed by Liz Sumner RN, BSN
Palliative Care Coordinator, The Elizabeth Hospice