Saying goodbye to a dying relative or friend is easily the hardest of things to do. ‘What to talk about’, ‘what to say’, and ‘how to say it’ doesn’t come naturally for obvious reasons. But interestingly, what such conversations ask of us boils down to things people like to hear at any point in life: words of candor, reassurance, and love.
Being confronted with a loved one’s impending death brings us face to face with our own mortality and feelings of helplessness, as we try to figure out how to move forward in the face of the inevitable. In addition to that, many are left frustrated in an effort to say something meaningful and reassuring to the dying person. This is so because even with the best of intentions, the situation leaves people lost and unstable.
Things You Must Keep In Mind While Conversing With Someone Who Is Dying
In all, one has to be mentally prepared for a conversation with a dying family member or friend. If there is a general guide, it should be saying things that will be of great comfort to the person, albeit not misrepresenting the truth.
Also, the person who is dying knows what the future holds; so don’t avoid the topic when he or she brings it up. Below are some of the important things you should be aware of.
The Conversation Isn’t About You
Remind yourself that the situation isn’t about you. So, listen before you say anything. You may feel uncomfortable about it, but your loved one needs you. They may even be waiting and hoping you bring up the topic.
Follow their Lead
Allow the dying person to lead the conversation if they are talking about it, and contribute to the conversation in the manner they introduced it. For instance, if a dying friend talks to you about death metaphorically, engage him or her on that level.
While at that, don’t be in a haste to change the topic, talk about the thing he or she is talking about. If the person expresses anxiety over unfinished tasks, you can make reference to what the person had achieved and subtly assure them that they’ve accomplished something meaningful.
Avoid Confirming or Denying They’re Dying
Being mentally prepared for a conversation with someone who is dying is important as you may be confronted with some hard questions. The most uncomfortable of these questions would put you in a position to confirm what’s impending, avoid doing so.
If the person asks you if she or he is dying, instead of saying “yes” or “no”, you can assure them that they are in good care. Alternatively, you can admit you don’t know what will happen and get the person to talk about how he or she is feeling.
How to Say Goodbye to a Dying Friend or Relative
As much as one may want to avoid this, there is a point in life where you will have to bid farewell to a dying person. Be it a bosom friend or a relative, the following guide comes in handy.
Make the Person Understand or Believe You are Ready for the Change
As much as you would be devastated by the passing of the person, understand that he or she may also be heartbroken for the pain their death would cause. As such, it is important to reassure the person that you understand the circumstance is beyond the control of anyone and, that you are ready to face the future.
While this would help them pass on peacefully, it is also a way of granting the person permission to set aside the troubles of this world.
Reassure them that their Loved Ones Would Fare Well in their Absence
Being humans, we can understand why someone who’s at the brink of death would be concerned about the welfare of those they are leaving behind. Given this, you may need to say goodbye in such a way that would reassure the person that the people they love would be fine after their death. Below are examples of what to say:
- You’ve been such a fighter. If you need to rest, it’s alright to do so.
- We understand what’s happening and it makes me so sad, but know that we will be okay.
- We don’t like what’s happening to you, but you’ve taught us how to find strength sticking together.
Talk About their Accomplishments or Legacy
While conversing with someone who’s dying, you might detect that the person is worried about passing on unfulfilled, with an uncompleted project, or unresolved conflict. When you do, talk about the things the person had accomplished.
Help him or her see that they made a difference in the world, amongst their friends and family. This would go a long way in convincing them that their lives had meaning and purpose.
You Can Say Goodbye To Someone Who Is Dying Without Using Any Words
Professionals have always advised people caring for someone critically ill or in a coma to talk to them. Apart from the fact that talking to them can help them recover, it is a way of supporting them through the journey to death. Your are encouraged to keep speaking to them even if you’re not sure you’re being heard. It has been said that hearing is the last sense to leave someone who’s dying.
But then, you can also speak volumes without words. Gentle and loving touch, stroking an arm or shoulder, kisses, smiles, and gazing into someone’s eyes all communicate compassion, love, and gratitude for a shared lifetime.
What to Say to a Family With a Relative Who Is Dying
As death is inevitable, one cannot avoid having to offer words of condolences to a family that has lost someone. Offering words of encouragement to a family that lost their loved one can seem to be an irrelevant gesture but it goes a long way in comforting the family and helping them live through a difficult time.
Just as it is with conversing with a friend or relative on a deathbed, it can be very frustrating to come up with what to say to a family that has lost a member, or with one expected to soon pass on.
What to Say When the Person Has Died
In deciding what to say, one has to regard things like their relationship with the family, relationship with the person in question, family values, believes, and what have you. If it is not heavily impressed upon you to speak from your heart and say something meaningful that would make the family understand you share in their loss, you can stick with any of the following.
- I am sorry for your loss.
- I am so sorry you’re going through this
- I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in any way I can.
- I am sorry that I can’t take this pain away
- I am here for you and your loved ones, no matter what.
- I don’t know what to say, just know I care
- I don’t understand how it feels to be in your situation, but I’m here to support you.
How to Show Support When the Person Is Yet to Pass On
The fear of saying the wrong thing can keep one away from supporting a friend with a relative that’s about to die. While this fear is understandable, it shouldn’t make you avoid the situation or distance yourself from a friend when you’re needed most. You should know that you mustn’t say something; just being around is okay and very supportive.
You can also offer to help in some specific ways or proffer useful ideas that would help deal with the situation. Also, you can ask about the person’s conditions and make relevant inquiries about the situation, but do not push for details if your friend is not comfortable talking about it. Below are some useful examples of what to say.
- I don’t know what to do, please let me know how I can be useful.
- How are you feeling at the moment?
- Is there anything I can do?
- I’m sorry this is happening.
- I wouldn’t know what to do if I’m in your shoes, I’m sorry.
Tell Them You Love Them While You Still Can
When someone is in the final hours of his or her life, nothing is more important for them than having their loved ones around them. If you happen to be one of such persons, you should prioritize making the friend or relative feel comfortable. In most cases, people that are about to embrace death can still hear what is happening around them, so you can keep talking to them while holding their hands as they pass on.
However, while you talk to them, there are things you shouldn’t say. To a large extent, if you truly care for the person, you can trust your instincts on what to say. Nevertheless, it is very easy for grief to leave one in an unstable state of mind. As such, one may say what he or she never intended. Whatever you do, just know that the person passing on is likely aware of what is happening, so try to not make them feel bad about it. Below are some useful guides.
Show Them How Much You Love them
Feel free to voice how much you value and love them. Thank them for what you had shared and make them know they will be missed. Nonetheless, you shouldn’t take this too far as it can make the person feel guilty about dying. Phrases like “I love you”, “forgive me”, “thank you”, and “I forgive you” are useful here.
Remind them of Fond Memories
People embrace the last moments of their lives differently. While some people would want to make things right and mend broken relationships, others would rather dwell on life achievements or regret what they never get to do. In all, it is up to you to keep them focused on their good deeds and fond memories.
Help them Find Comfort in the Sentiments of their Faith
This should only be done if the person about to die is religious. Most of the religions of the world believe in the afterlife. So find ways to comfort the person within the confines of his or her religion. What you say should be about the person’s faith and not yours. Also, it is not advisable to go with this if you had made it clear you don’t believe in the person’s faith as it may come off as being insincere.
Try To Avoid Saying These To Someone Who Is Dying
Knowing what to say is almost equivalent to also knowing what you shouldn’t say. So if you focus on the above, it is unlikely you would say anything that is improper. Nevertheless, the following are examples of things you should avoid saying to a dying person.
Is there anything you need?
Someone facing the last moments of their lives needs all the attention they can get, so don’t wait for them to tell you what they need. Just ensure they are very comfortable.
How Are You?
You know how they are and what’s up with them, so asking this might be frustrating for the person as much as it is quite insensitive. A better alternative is “how are you feeling today”, this would help the person focus on the moment.
Don’t Leave Us
While this is understandably what you feel, it might come across as though the person has control over what is happening but is choosing to let his or her loved ones go through the pain of his or her impending death.
Avoid Inconsiderate Phrases or Clichés When Speaking to Someone Who is Grieving
Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult things anyone can face and it is easy to say something that a grieving person might find annoying and inconsiderate. The following are examples of the things you shouldn’t say.
- Sorry for the untimely death of your…
- We love him but God loves him most.
- He or she is in a better place now.
- At least he or she died at an old age.
- I know it is painful but just try to move on.