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How to Say Goodbye to a Dying Loved One

Saying goodbye to a dying loved one is one of the hardest things one will have to do and something that no one can fully prepare for. However, keeping a few of these takeaways in mind may help guide your thoughts and words, creating a beautiful memory.

  • Be vulnerable and honest. Neither the dying person nor the grieving person will know how to cope with the situation, so the best thing to do is open up the space for honesty and vulnerability. Let the tears flow. Talk about how difficult this is. Don't hold back your feelings for this could be the last time you'll be able to interact with this person on earth.

  • Tell them you are there for them. The dying loved one will likely be scared of the either the dying process itself or leaving loved ones behind. No matter how bad you're hurting, let them know it'll all be okay and that you'll be okay. They need closure, calm, and reassurance in this moment more than anything.

  • Talk, even if they are silent. Often, at this point in the process, the dying loved one will not be able to speak or may prefer to listen due to weakness or pain. Despite the lack of conversation on their end, continue speaking so they are able to listen to your voice and find comfort in it. They may not be able to respond, but there is a good chance they are soaking up every word.

  • If it feels right, make it as lighthearted as possible. You know your relationship with this person and can make the call if you'd like to keep things lighthearted or not. The situation is scary and serious, but recalling funny memories, making jokes, and bringing levity to the darkness can create peace among all individuals involved.

  • Be present. Avoid going on your phone or looking for distractions from the pain. These last moments are ones you're going to look back on when you can no longer physically see this person. Memorize their face, their laugh, the way it feels to hold their hand or give them a hug. Be fully present as much as you're mentally and physically able to.

List inspired by Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care.

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