One of the most difficult conversations we can ever have, is knowing what to say to someone when you hear they, or someone they love is dying. As natural as death is, talking about it just doesn’t come easy for any of us.

Working at Avera Health’s Dougherty Hospice House, Cathy Kellogg and Kari Sansgaard know that talking to, or about, someone who is dying can be a difficult and emotional experience. Yet, they also tell us that these conversations can also be a deeply meaningful and rewarding ones.

They joined us today, as part of National Hospice Awareness Month, to tell us more about how we can be open and honest with our loved ones and help them feel comfortable and supported during such challenging times.

They also explained to us what “Ring Theory” is and how you can use it to better approach any situation that deals with grief or trauma.

Interested in learning how to apply Ring Theory? Visualize it as a series of concentric circles. The innermost circle represents the individual at the heart of the current trauma or crisis. Write their name in this circle. Surrounding it, create larger circles to include people in the order of their proximity to the person in the center. Continue this process as needed, adding individuals in each expanding circle based on their closeness to the core person. You can also include yourself in these circles as a guide for communication and support when facing a traumatic or grief-filled situation.

Ring Theory follows the principle of “Comfort In and Dump Out.” Here’s how it operates: The person in the central circle has the freedom to process their grief or trauma as they see fit, and their emotional needs take precedence.

The individuals in the outer circles can express their feelings and concerns too, but there’s a key distinction in how they share those emotions. This is where the concept of “dumping out” becomes relevant. Those in the outer rings should direct their negative emotions and anxieties only to individuals in the larger circles. It’s not that they are forbidden from experiencing their own grief or feelings; rather, it’s about recognizing that venting their pain to someone who is already deeply affected isn’t beneficial for either party.