How do you plan your words when it’s time to say goodbye to a dying loved one? What should you say? What should you talk about?
It’s tough because, normally, we don’t talk about death in our everyday lives. Often, when it comes to the topic of our mortality, we skate around the issue.
In this confusing and painful period, it’s normal to be overwhelmed by emotions. We handle this anxiety in different ways. Some stay quiet or say little because they’re afraid that what they say might hurt the person who is dying.
Others let their emotions get the best of them, letting all their fear and anger explode at that moment. Then they end up regretting this outburst after the dying person has already passed on.
To help you say your goodbye that will leave you both in peace, here are some tips.
1. Let the Dying Person Lead
When you visit someone who is dying, let them steer the conversation. You can laugh and talk about everyday stuff. Smile and go along with what they’re saying, even if your mind is screaming “let’s talk about the fact that you’re dying, please!”
Understandably, your feelings are making you impatient. However, this talk is about their comfort level, not yours.
When they’re ready to talk about it, you have to be ready also. They might bring it up either directly or indirectly. Listen for cues such as saying that they want to go home or they feel tired.
They may also outright say that they know they’re not long for this world. They might have some requests, such as making funeral arrangements or wanting to talk to a specific person. Reassure them that you’ll follow their wishes to the best of your ability.
2. Say the Things That Matter
If you have things left unsaid, now is the time to speak but it must come from a place of love. To have a meaningful goodbye, say things that recognize your connection and restore your closeness to one another.
If you don’t know what to say, consider the advice of Dr. Ira Byock. In his book, he said that the words that really matter are:
- “Please forgive me”
- “I forgive you”
- “Thank you”
- “I love you”
The feeling of letting go of bad blood, being appreciated, and being loved are our most basic feelings. These are the things that every human being wants to hear and not just on our deathbeds.
Also, while being honest is a good rule to follow, some truths are better left unsaid. There’s no need to add to a dying person’s regret.
3. When It’s Time to Say Goodbye, Don’t Wait
Don’t wait till the last minute because you don’t know exactly when that will be. Before you end your goodbyes, say what needs to be said. Always treat your conversation as if it’s the last time you’ll be speaking to your loved one.
Fare Thee Well
Goodbye is originally a contraction of the words, “God be with you.” Goodbyes are about wishing the other person well, giving them a blessing for their journey onward. When it’s time to say goodbye, say the words that will encourage them to face whatever lies ahead.
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