Easing the Pain of Saying Goodbye

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There is no right or wrong way to say farewell or grieve. The goal is to avoid regret and remorse; to manage what we can and let go of what is beyond our control. And when a loved one passes, to realize you are not alone, especially with the assistance of VNA hospice. From bereavement counselors to support groups, VNA is here to help you navigate the days ahead.  

There may be specific people the patient wishes to have at their side. Hospice bereavement teams strive to help patients find closure and peace. It’s not only for the benefit of the person experiencing their end-of-life journey, but for those who will be learning to go on without them. 

According to The Four Things That Matter Most, by Dr. Ira Byock, M.D., there is a common need to express four thoughts at the end of life:

  • I love you
  • Thank you
  • I forgive you
  • Forgive me

When death is imminent, there’s often a sense of not knowing what to say. Taken from Dr. Byock’s book, here is a list of what others suggest, have done, or said, as they prepared to say their final good-byes to a loved one.

  1. Don’t wait until the last minute. Say what you need to say now.
  2. It’s okay, even comforting, to let them know the end is near. Some people need permission to “go.”
  3. Follow the dying person’s lead. If the person talks about impending death either directly or indirectly through metaphor, go along with that.
  4. The truth is good — but so is the little white lie. There’s no need to burden your loved one with a painful truth.
  5. Keep talking even if you’re not sure you’re being heard. Many experts believe that even loved ones who appear to be unconscious or uncommunicative may be aware that you are present and speaking to them with love.
  6. Try to stay present — don’t get ahead of yourself.
  7. You don’t have to issue a formal farewell every time you leave the room. On parting, hospice workers suggest loving, open-ended phrases, like: “I love you; sleep well.”
  8. Trust your instincts, not “the rules.” You’ll get plenty of advice on how to say goodbye – you know your loved one best. You may want to play music, read from a book or just hold hands. Sometimes you don’t need words, just knowing you’re there is enough.

Find out more information about our hospice and bereavement services here.

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