How to Say Goodbye to a Loved One When You Don’t Know What to Say

When we lose a loved one, finding the right words to say goodbye can add stress to an already unimaginable time. We asked our amazing CaringBridge community for advice on what to say when the time comes to say goodbye to a loved one.

Here are their heartfelt ideas and stories:

Give Them Permission to Let Go

Telling your loved one it’s OK to let go can be an emotional relief for both of you.

“For the week before my dad died, I talked to him about so many things, memories and how much I loved him. He may or may not have heard me, but it was stuff I needed to say to him. I made sure he was blessed by a priest and his sins were forgiven so he could die peacefully. The night before he died, again I talked to him, telling him how much I loved him and in that conversation, I gave him ‘permission’ to do what he had to do. Within 10 hours, he passed away.”

Jean Pfarr

“It’s OK to go. We will be OK. We love you so much and know you will always be with us and we will see you again.”

Ashley Call

Be Personal

Your loved one is unique in so many ways. Tell them how much you appreciate what makes them special:

“My father was a scientist with master’s degrees in both mathematics and engineering. He was not a religious man, but a kind and generous man, and he believed, first and foremost, in electricity. His early work in the development and testing of jet engines, x-ray machinery, wireless telemetry and nuclear resonance may have hastened the multiple cancers that took him at 62 years old. He would tell us, ‘Your brain and your body are made of charged ions, your thoughts and your dreams are electrical impulses, your soul is electrical energy…and energy never dies, it is attracted and repelled by all the forces around us.’ He died in my arms, and I felt that force pass through my entire body, to the ends of my hair… I had whispered to him that I would carry his energy in my heart… and I do.”

Kathryn Lukomski

Respect Their Wishes

Now is the time to truly listen to what your loved one wants (even if it’s not what you want). Try to avoid arguing and practice acceptance.

“I was quiet and sat with Mom, she didn’t want a service, just us by her side.”

Sheila Rudolph

Offer Reassurance

“Let them know you will be OK. Sometimes they can’t let go until they know that.”

Nancy McNamara Shepherd

“As long as you are alive a part of them will live on, too. They will always be in our hearts and minds, so go ahead and rest in peace. Family members long gone are waiting to be united with you again.”

Betty Arnold

“I took care of my husband while he was ill, and when he asked me if I would be mad at him if he went, I told him that he would always be with me, no matter where he was.”

Mary Seitz

Show Your Appreciation

“Thank you for being in my life, and thank you for the difference you made.”

Ruthie McGee

Say What You Need to Say

Don’t hold back when it comes to sharing how you feel.

“Know you may only have one chance. Don’t hold back – say everything you need to say and everything they need to hear.”

Tammy Spading Wallace

Tell Them How Much You Love Them

“I will always love you. You live in my heart.”

Carleen Cannizzaro Sanders

Let Them Know You’ll See Each Other Again

Many people find religion to be a great comfort during this time. You can remind your loved one that this isn’t really goodbye.

“When my 7 year old was dying from leukemia, I told her it was OK to let go, and to stop fighting. I told her to go on to heaven, and that Mommy, Daddy and Ariana loved her. I told her we will see each other again in heaven. The day of her memorial service, we wrote messages on the balloons we released. It helped me a lot as a mother grieving for her child.”

Patricia Gallaher

Share Memories

The memories you’ve shared with your loved one last forever. Reminisce on the good times, and have a good laugh with your loved one about the silly stories. You can write down memories beforehand if it helps you remember, and then you’ll also have them to look back upon. 

Be By Their Side

Sometimes there are no words to say goodbye. Being right by their side, holding their hand and giving them a hug makes your support and love known more than anything else.

“Don’t say goodbye. Just say, ‘I love you and will keep you in my heart forever.’”

Sandra Leighton

Share Your Story With CaringBridge

Everyone has their own ways of saying goodbye. If it helps you to share, please leave a comment with any words that have helped you say goodbye.

Comments (7)

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Diane Constantine Aug 02, 2020 10:52pm
At 94 my Dad was no longer responsive and organs were shutting down. My siblings and I sat around his bed retelling our favorite memories with Dad and he jokes he told and played on us. Nothing would have pleased and comforted him and us as much as his children being together loving and supporting each other. Although we've all shed our tears missing Dad, we have only good memories of Dad's last week here.
DOYLE Jul 18, 2020 1:25pm
Peggy Olson Jun 17, 2020 4:20pm
I sent my mother, my father, and my husband off with the words you may have read above: "I love you "and "I will miss you, but it is okay for you to go." "I will be all right." You can go now. " I feel them with me where ever I go so I know they knew and could slip away with peace. I had to say 'goodbye' in my way with each. It will be the same with any other relatives through this test we have called 'life'.
Debbie Bozeman Jun 05, 2020 11:27pm
I am the cate giver for someone with a glioblastoma brain tumor. I have sent family members this article. i hope it helps them through this difficult time. Our loved one is really to go home to Jesus. i wonder at times if he is waiting for family members to say " we are ok, go home to Jesus, we will join you soon.
Meredith Bohne Jan 08, 2020 10:00am
Very touching stories, tearjerker. I
Elizabeth Oct 28, 2019 2:42am
Thank you so much for your story
Lyn Aug 16, 2019 7:27am
Hospice gave us “Transitions and Letting Go” booklets which said everything that you have said here . It was helpful to use, reread, and use some more. Excellent advice! Thank you.