Saying Goodbye

Saying good-bye to a dying loved one — what to talk about, when, and how — doesn’t come naturally to most of us. All they ask of us is what people appreciate hearing at any time of life: words of candor, reassurance, and love.

Lesson #1: Don’t wait until the last minute

It’s hard to say good-bye, but putting off meaningful conversations is perhaps the number-one source of regret. This is dangerous because it’s impossible to predict the final breath. Spend less time focused on making sure they don’t die alone and more time on telling them what they mean to you.  Dying people want to hear four very specific messages from their loved ones:  “Please forgive me.” “I forgive you.” “Thank you.” “I love you.”

Lesson #2: It’s OK, even comforting, to let on that you know the end is nearing

Realize that the dying person usually knows what’s happening. The person who’s dying starts to wonder if nobody else gets it. This stresses them — they have to think about others’ needs instead of dealing with their own.  It helps to reassure the dying person that you understand and are ready; in a way, you’re granting the person permission to set aside the troubles of this world.

 Lesson #3: Follow the dying person’s lead

If the person talks about impending death either directly or indirectly through metaphor, a helpful response would be to say: “Tell me more.”  If they are expressing anxiety about finishing certain tasks – you can follow with reassurance: “You’ve done a good job, you’re all set.”  Sometimes the person may ask, “Am I dying?” as a way of gauging your feelings. You can reflect the question back: “I don’t know. How are you feeling?”  Others refuse to directly discuss death and their wishes should be honored.

Lesson #4: Truth is good — but so is the little white lie

Being reassured that their loved ones will be fine in their absence helps people feel they can go peacefully. It’s common to seek reconciliation with people, with God or the universe, or within themselves. They often ask directly about particular relationships or express a desire to see someone they’ve been in conflict with themselves.

Most dying people seem peaceful at the end and the moments before death are calm. Their last minutes can also bring you some peace.  Take this time to say your goodbyes by letting them know just how much you love them.

To Our Shared Journey,                                                                                      

Mary Francis is a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®,

Certified Law of Attraction Facilitator,

Early Intervention Field Traumatology (EIFT), 

Author/Founder of “The Sisterhood of Widows”


2 Responses

  1. Connie Rodriguez
    | Reply

    Thank you for sharing. my husband recently passed away in 2023 before his passing we both retired in late 2020 during the early years of retirement we reflect it back on our marriage. We had been married for 42 years we told each other what we meant to each other how much we loved each other, and how much we loved our family and talked about what we accomplished I believe my husband knew his time was nearing and at the end he was at peace very calm. This helped us and is still helping us trying to move ahead

  2. Elizabeth Caven
    | Reply

    Thank you Mary, I needed to read your post. I have so many regrets of things left unsaid in my husband’s final days. We were married 56 years when he passed 4 years ago, but I am still feeling the regret and hope I can make peace with it sometime?

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