Saying Goodbye To A Parent Or Loved One

Huffington Post is running a great article entitled “Saying Goodbye To A Parent” by Betty Londergan.  Many of us won't have the privilege of saying goodbye because many times death can be acute, immediate and sadly… surprising.  For the lucky ones, being able to say-your-peace, and receive the same back can be incredibly fulfilling.

My husband was able to experience this with his grandfather many years ago.  His “Grandpa Joe”, a WWII veteran was dying of cancer that had spread extensively throughout his body.  He had been in and out of the VA in Spokane Washington… On and off chemotherapy…  And finally in his late 80's he had had enough.  Weeks before he went into the VA (his final visit) my husband and his brother drove up to Spokane to spend some time with Grandpa Joe.  It was unlike any other visit they'd ever had.  The normally rough-and-tough Joe was extremely frail but still relatively lucid.  On this visit, Joe would open up about the war (he rarely if ever spoke of his year of grueling service as a medic in the war overseas), and he even initiated a discussion about what each grandchild had meant to him during his adult life.  Grandpa Joe knew this was the last visit he would have with his grandsons.  I know that tears were at full flood stage.  Each of the boys (then in their 30's) were able to share their favorite memories and thank Grandpa Joe for being such a wonderful grandfather and friend over the years.  They also both (literally) said goodbye to Grandpa Joe one last time.

Being able to say goodbye, can be an incredible rewarding and fulfilling experience.  In her article, Betty Londergan calls being with a parent while they're leaving this world “the great privilege”, and I must say I totally agree.  As a social worker, I'm around families dealing with these issues on a regular basis.  Some are good at it, and some not so much.  Most people know that in life there are no guarantees, so it's important to take the opportunity to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you.  Tell them you love them while you have the opportunity to do so in this life.  It will eliminate (or at least minimize) the “I wish I would have” notions, or the “I should have told them what they meant to me” regrets.

Have you had the “privilege” to say goodbye a loved one before they passed on? How did it go?  What would you do differently?  -Share your thoughts in the comments below

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  1. Hi I recently joined the eldercare professionals group and have been following on articles that are stimulating and interesting. I do not have any background in Geriatric care but am an RN/RM and very passionate about elder care. I live in East Africa where much of elder care is from family members and we have no structured way of dealing with elder care issues. I have cared for my elderly parents and would love to connect with you and the senior resource network. Who knows I may just ignite some elder care solutions in my community!
    1. Hi Mary! It’s great to hear from you! That would be our biggest hope too, that the good things that are going on in elder care can be carried on and modified to help those who do not have access to these resources. There are parts of the US that need help in this way too! Blessings to you and the great work you are doing in your community.

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