Barbara, When is it time to say goodbye?
There is a saying, “Live each day as if it were your last.” It makes sense that the last day of our lives is the day we would want to say goodbye. Unfortunately, on our last day, we probably won’t be able to say goodbye. If we are dying a gradual death from disease we will be non responsive. If it is a fast death those people who mean the most to us probably won’t be with us.
SO--when is it time to say goodbye? Everyday! Live each day so that at the end of it there are no regrets, no unfinished business, and nothing that will create guilt feelings later.
The above is actually my life philosophy. I really think the person who asked the question was referring to when do we say our final goodbye to someone who is dying? I believe we say our final goodbye in stages.
Ideally, we have expressed our appreciation for the relationship and our goodbyes in the months to weeks before death actually occurs. We have an intimate conversation when the person who is dying is still alert and interacting with us. Later, in the hours to minutes before death, when the person is non responsive, we say goodbye again. It is easier to talk to a person who is non responsive, to say everything our heart tells us to say. This is the goodbye where you talk about the difficult times as well as the good times. A cleaning of the slate so to speak.
Another goodbye is said after the person we care about is dead. This is done at the bedside before the body is taken to the mortuary or at the coffin. This goodbye is said out loud or within our hearts.
Then there is a final goodbye. I recommend we write a letter to put all of our thoughts on paper. Write about the relationship, positive and challenging, write about love, forgiveness, and understanding. Whatever is in our heart that still needs to be said, write it down. That letter can go into the coffin (under the hands, or pillow, wherever we feel led to place it), or if there is no coffin, do something special with the letter. Keep the letter in a special place, burn it and release the ashes to the wind, or put it over flowers in a garden. Do something special with it.
When is the time to say goodbye? Many, many, times.
Something More... about We Say Our Final Goodbye in Stages
Understanding the dying process is most helpful for families to have a more sacred experience together. My booklet, Gone From My Sight, The Dying Experience is the tool needed to understand that dying isn't like it is in the movies. When the final hours of care arrive before your loved one takes their last breath, we, the watchers wonder "what can I do?". The Eleventh Hour is the resource needed at this point to know what sounds to expect and how to comfort the dying.