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Saying Goodbye to Someone You Love

In grief counseling, we recognize the importance of education for loved ones on how to approach end-of life conversations and care. Our partner at has shared with us some good reminders of how to approach this difficult season in life.

One of the reasons it’s hard for many individuals to start the conversation about end-of-life care is that it feels very final. When someone you love is approaching the end, though, saying goodbye is inevitable. Doing so with a plan, even though the anticipatory grief is emotionally difficult, will help you through the process.

For most adults, saying goodbye to someone who is dying is not something that comes naturally. They don’t know what to talk about, when to bring it up or how to have the conversation. Don’t overthink it. This is your opportunity to tell your loved one what they want to hear from you. For most people, that’s reassurance that you love them, words of candor about what they mean to you, and positive memories of the times you’ve shared. The following tips can also help.

Don’t Fear Talking About the End

It’s OK, and in some ways even comforting, to say that you know the end is coming. Your loved one certainly knows; you don’t need to tiptoe around the fact.

Follow the Patient’s Lead

Let the person of focus take the lead in the conversation when possible. If they want to talk about their death directly, then go along with it. If they prefer to be less direct, mirror that approach as well.

Be Truthful, But Tactful

This is not the time to unload painful drama from the past, even if there is some truth behind it. Sticking with positive memories and sentiments as you say your goodbyes will benefit you and your loved one.

Keep Talking, Even If You’re Unsure If They’re Listening

When the end is near, you may not know if your loved one can hear what you are saying. Many experts believe that those who appear to be unconscious or who are uncommunicative at the end of life are aware of the presence of others and can hear and understand a loving conversation. You may be heard more than you think.

Stay in the Present

Even though it feels like the end is looming, don’t jump too far ahead. Stay in the present, focusing on what is happening at the current moment.

Follow Your Instincts, Not Rules

Many well-meaning people and even professionals will try to tell you how to say goodbye. While this advice can help you through the process, you know your loved one best. Follow your instincts as you navigate this new situation together.

Don’t Issue a Formal Farewell Every Time

When you don’t know how much time a loved one has left, you may feel obligated to make sure you say a formal goodbye every time you part. That level of seriousness can be unnecessarily stressful for both of you, though, and a simple “I love you” is usually best.

If you or your family faces grief or you are preparing for a loss of a loved one. our Grief Care Team is here to help. Please don't hesitate to reach out for help.

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