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How to Say Goodbye When Your Loved One’s Time Is Near

how do I say goodbye when my loved one's time is near?

While death is one of the few things we can truly count on in life, it still manages to take us by surprise—especially when it happens to someone we love. Regardless of how much time we’ve had to prepare, finding the right words at the end of a loved one’s life feels impossible. Hospice care bereavement services may be able to help.

If you have questions about hospice and bereavement support,
call us at (702) 509-5276 or contact us online.


How to Say Goodbye

Here are 6 things to consider when saying goodbye—

1. Reminisce or Ask Them Questions.

When saying goodbye to someone you love, be authentic. The person loves you for you, so don’t feel unnecessary pressure to say something eloquent or Hollywood-inspired. Be honest. Be gentle. Reminisce good memories if the opportunity is right. Thank your loved one for ways he or she has impacted you. If you’re comfortable, sit closely and hold hands. Look at old photos. These choices will communicate love, even if you are struggling with how to say it.


2. Don’t wait.

Waiting is a big risk. Even the most skilled professionals are unable to pinpoint with total accuracy when someone is going to pass away. If you are relying on a prediction—even a safe one—you may end up facing regret if the person slips away sooner than expected. Unfortunately, the conversation won’t become easier by putting it off. What will help is your opportunity to say things from your heart and start your own process of healing.

If you’re having a hard time sitting down and making the words come out, remember that you don’t have to say goodbye all at once. Gradually say everything you need to say and let them know how much you care. If they do pass sooner than you expect, it’s less likely this way that things will have been left unsaid.


3. You Don’t Have to Formally Say Goodbye.

If the word “goodbye” is too hard to say, don’t say it. You know why you’re there, and your loved one likely understands as well. Sharing a meaningful conversation can still provide peace and closure. Follow the lead of the one you love. If he or she wants to discuss promises or arrangements—or if your loved one wants to talk about trivial things—go with it. The goodbye is the conversation; it’s not always the word “goodbye.”


4. You Don’t Really Have to Say Anything, Actually.

Don’t feel pressure to fill the silence. Your presence is what is important. Just be there. Hold their hand and make them feel comfortable. Share a heartfelt hug.


5. They May Talk In Metaphors.

It is not uncommon for people to talk in metaphors when their time is near. According to researchers, it is common for people to begin speaking metaphorically of a journey, specifically in the final 72 hours of life. Many people use traveling language—speaking of passports, tickets, trains, or passengers. While it may feel strange, know that this is normal. Provide comfort rather than correcting them or patronizing them.


6. They May Not Be Able to Talk at All.

Sometimes when the end is near, individuals will start to shut down or sleep a lot. However, many hospice professionals suggest that hearing may be the last to go. You can still say what’s on your heart if the person is unresponsive, and it’s possible that loving words and music provide comfort even if they are unable to say so. Bottom line: Don’t leave things unsaid, even if you can’t get the response you think you need. If you need to apologize for something, do it.

Related: End of Life Timeline: Signs & Symptoms of the Dying Process


Part of Saying Goodbye Is Your Own Closure

While it may feel selfish, know that your own closure is vitally important. And chances are, your loved one wants that for you as well. So pursue the help that you need without shame. Be honest with your family and friends when they ask how you are doing. Seek grief counseling. Allow yourself sufficient time to heal—and be confident of this… you will.

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