Saying Goodbye When Dying

For people who know they are facing death there will come the inevitable point when they have to say goodbye. Saying a final goodbye is painful, for both the person dying and those left behind. However, expressing a goodbye is an opportunity to offer reassurance, affirm love and confirm closure.

Many people say that the grieving process is harder if they have not had the opportunity to say goodbye properly.

If you are dying then making sure things are not left unsaid is very important to allow those left behind to cope with their grief. Often saying goodbye is a process rather than a single event. You may have to say goodbye to many people and as we usually don’t know the exact moment we will die you may repeat your goodbyes.

  • Saying goodbye is especially important if you are a parent who is leaving children behind. They can cope so much better if they understand what is going to happen. They will still be devastated, but this is better than you suddenly disappearing without explanation.
  • Saying goodbye is a chance to put past disagreements behind you, express your feelings openly and honestly and bring peace into the final days of your lives together. Saying goodbye is about making the end emotionally easier. "Please forgive me", "I forgive you", "Thank you" and "I love you" are the most important starting points for saying goodbye with complete closure.
  • Saying goodbye will be a painful process. You will probably cry, get angry, be sad, feel lost; you may even struggle to know what to say. Speak from the heart and give yourself plenty of time. A goodbye doesn’t have to be a solitary outpouring of emotions. It may be a more subtle letting go over time.
  • This is a unique time in your life when you can ignore some of the social conventions that normally hold us back. Embrace the chance to say and do the things that you have always wanted to. This may also be a good opportunity to give something to those you are leaving behind rather than leave it to be divided in a will. You can then pass on the significance of the gift.
  • Give each other permission to feel. If you are the one dying then give your family and friends permission to feel sad, angry and happy or whatever emotion they experience. If you are a friend or family member then part of your job is to give permission to die without guilt – you have to let go and allow them to do the same.
  • You don’t have to do something out of character. If you have always been a practical person then maybe that is the way you want to say goodbye – maybe you’d like a big party, maybe you want personal time with each person. Do what feels right for you and those around you.
  • Tell each other what you mean to each other, what significance you have played in each others lives and what you will remember and treasure. this is one of the most comforting things you can do in the last weeks and days.
  • At the end touch is important, physical closeness will emphasis the bond of love you share.

If you need support for saying goodbye, support organisations for your illness such as MacMillian Cancer Support can help.