Five Ways to Make It Easier To Say Goodbye To Someone You Love

The final goodbye, that is. Losing people we love is difficult. Losing them to death is the hardest loss of all. But, if you love, you’ll have loss and that loss may be to death. So, now’s as good a time as any to think about the beauty of saying goodbye.

Because the truth is, it can be beautiful. The moment can be sad and poignant and lovely.

Losing a loved one to death from an illness is a process. It will leave a scar at its end but going through the process propels you forward. It helps you grieve. Part of that process will be saying goodbye. Saying goodbye is easier if you focus on the person you love. Focus on saying what you think that person will need to hear to receive peace. It’s not the time to look inward to find the words to make yourself feel better. It’s important to say the things you won’t look back to regret. Take time to rehearse what you will say. Look into your heart for the right words. If you take the time to do that, those words will come to you. These tips can help you craft the message that will do both of you the most good.

  1. Don’t wait. You need not hold off until the moment of death. You may not know exactly when that will be. I said my essential goodbye to my dying father just after his terminal diagnosis. He lived 6 weeks more but that just gave us time to enjoy the peace we shared.
  2. Don’t keep insisting the dying person will get well. You may think that’s comforting but would it be to you if you knew you were dying and everyone around you kept telling you that wasn’t the case?
  3. Show up. If you’re there, that speaks volumes. If you’re there holding hands or offering a massage, that’s even better. If you’re doing all that and saying lovely things, that’s best of all.
  4. You can smile, you can joke. Humor is really okay. Your loved one may get some peace from knowing you’re still you, if humor is part of your usual personality. Same goes for crying. It’s okay. Emotion from the heart shows you care. When my friend’s mother died, the whole family put their hands together and cheered, “Yay, Selma!” because that is what they always did on special days.
  5. Honesty isn’t always the best policy. If you have a family rift and on your mother’s death bed she asks if you will try to resolve it after she’s gone, it’s not necessary to say, “Hell no.” Let her go with hope. Say things that promote peace. 

I said goodbye to my mother when I was 24, goodbye to my father at 39. I learned a great deal in between those losses. Suffice it to say, if I could I’d go back to my mother’s death and say a true and loving goodbye. Learn from me so you won’t have the same regret.

Photo credit: Mr.Thomas via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: Mr.Thomas via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-SA

16 Responses to “Five Ways to Make It Easier To Say Goodbye To Someone You Love

  • Great post , Debby …your advice is terrific…I think we all need to get more comfortable with talking about our mortality and discuss it more openly with each other…there’s way too much emphasis on the new …being young, looking young and staying young, that old age and death get marginalized …we understand life as a cycle scientifically , but strangely avoid its association in our own lives….we have rituals at the time of death , usually based on specific religious /cultural beliefs , but lack a general understanding of how to prepare for it …it’s not a subject taught in our schools and rarely do modern religious institutions speak on it , unless at a funeral…this is a subject in need of further investigation and exposure… in my opinion bringing more honesty , compassion and inclusivity into all aspects of the lifecycle is important. Meditation is a good way to begin to understand death…many long time meditators have the least difficulty at the time of death…add that to gathering together with other compassionate people in a place of open mutual discussion and understanding about the lifecycle is also helpful…

    • High praise indeed from someone who clearly understands the layered sensibilities of this topic. I do hope to open this dialogue. It’s one of the main reasons I wrote my book. It’s become a mission for me, personally and professionally. It’s a tough sell and it shouldn’t have to be…

  • A beautiful and poignant post Deb. It reminds me of my aunt who passed last summer. We knew the sentence. She prepared and tied up loose ends and she took it like a champ. We visited as often as we could every week as her numbered days passed. We talked about family, old times and told her how much she was loved. She never stopped wearing a smile. It was certainly bittersweet. Great advice. 🙂

    • It sounds like she went surrounded by love and peace. What could be a better way to end a life? Lovely.

  • A wonderful post, Debby. My mother died almost five years ago and hers was the first death of someone very close that I’d experienced. She was at home under hospice care so we had several months to prepare for her death. Your list resonates with me because I actually did every one of those things. I have no regrets at all about my last visits with her. I believe she died feeling very loved and at peace. And I felt peaceful as well.

    • I am so glad you got to accompany her at the end of her life. The peace you shared is a fitting end to a life lived with love. I’ve just decided to write a book about how to say goodbye. I’d love to show others how the passing of a loved one can be made easier for the dying and the living. And I’d like to do that by allowing people who went through it to tell their stories. If you’d like to share a story about your experience, I’d be happy to include it. Feel free to email me at dcc120652@gmail.com if you want to write a bit for the book. Thanks.

  • Thank you for a fresh, hopeful, healing perspective on losing a loved one. Great post.

  • Great advice! Parting with those we love is heartbreaking, but watching them suffer can be worse if we don’t make peace with what’s to come.

    • You are so right. Part of the benefit of helping them pass peacefully is the peace it helps us to reach later. Excellent point. Thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment.

  • Great post Debby. I too had this pain while I lost my father at his young age 48. But I stongly believe he’s with me only. Thanks for sharing ……

    • I too believe he is with you. I feel the same about my parents. The love and the relationship lives on, long past the death. Thanks for the comment.

  • Oof, what a hard topic. If we haven’t all been there at one point or other, we will be! This is really solid advice. Fortunately, I am in a really good relationship right now, but this is still really solid advice to keep in mind!

    • Thanks. I sincerely hope you don’t have to use my good advice for a really long time and maybe never!

  • Thank you for this post Debby! I’ve been talking to my 88 year old mother about dying for the last couple of years when she got very sick and moved into a nursing home. The thought of her dying was so incredibly scary to me, and I always thought I would not be able to go on, but in talking about it and sharing with her my fears, and hearing her fears, and hopes, we both are more prepared for the inevitable. She still says each time I visit her that she’s not ready to die, that she does not want to die, but we also both say that we know it’ll be OK, and that I can still talk to her every day and “she will hear me”. That’s what she told me, and it brings me great comfort to believe that!

    • You are so very welcome. Yes you’re right, I believe our relationships live on long after death. I still talk to both of my parents and feel their presence often. And, I certainly still feel the love and respect I had for both of them every day.

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