In honor of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, Springer Publishing presents this article by authors Norine Dresser and Fredda Wasserman, adapted from their book Saying Goodbye to Someone You Love.

As impossible as it is to fathom, here you are, facing life’s final chapter. How can it already be time to say goodbye to your loved one? How will you make the most of this time? And how will you say goodbye in a way that is tender, honest, and meaningful?

Saying goodbye can be one of the most precious and important parts of your relationship as you take time to:

  • Convey your deep love for him.
  • Express how he has enriched your life.
  • Reminisce about the joyous times you have shared.
  • Let your loved one know what you will miss about him.
  • Address unfinished business.
  • Acknowledge the importance of his life and how he has made a difference.

Saying goodbye is familiar; you practice it daily: a kiss goodnight, a “have a good day” at the end of a phone call, a farewell when you leave someone’s home or a party. Of course, at those times, you anticipate that you will see the person again. What if this is the final goodbye? Acknowledging that this may be the last time you will see or speak to the person you love pays homage to the value and significance of the relationship you share.

What do you imagine you would say? You might begin with, “When I think about your dying it breaks my heart. I have so much I want to tell you,” or “Every time I leave you, I worry that we may not see each other again.” Those words can be followed by a conversation that includes tributes to your dear one and to your relationship. You might even use the words that you would say at his memorial.

You may be hesitant to express your thoughts and feelings because you think that you have plenty of time and don’t want to rush things. You may fear that your words will be taken the wrong way, and you don’t want to upset your loved one. But if you keep waiting for the ideal circumstances, you may postpone these tender moments of goodbye until it is too late.

And, what if your dear one doesn’t die after you have that meaningful conversation? Nothing will have been lost. Chances are you will not regret having a heartfelt talk. Sharing laughter, tears, and loving goodbyes will enrich the last days, weeks, or months that you have together.