Saying goodbye the people we love is the hardest thing in the world to do. If your loved one is on life support, you will have more time to say goodbye to them.
Here are some suggestions.
Take Your Time
If the decision has been made to take your loved one-off of life support, it’s okay if you wait just a bit longer to actually do it. You should not prolong the action unnecessarily, but consider prolonging it enough so that you and other family members and friends have enough time to arrive and say their final goodbyes. Taking your loved one-off of life support is a very difficult decision that shouldn’t be rushed. When a loved one is on life support, you have the advantage of being able to say goodbye without the uncertainty of them holding on long enough for you to.
Talk to Them Privately
It’s a good idea to give everyone a chance to sit with your loved one individually and say their goodbyes privately, one-on-one. When you’re sitting with your loved one, be sure to talk to them just as if they can hear you. It’s unknown whether or not they can hear you, but many people who have survived life support or comas have reported being able to hear voices while they were out. Being alone with them will give you the chance to say what you want without worrying about censoring yourself for the sake of any other relatives or friends who are in the room.
Tell Them You Love Them
There are four things that people who are dying want to hear the most, and they are, “I love you,” “Thank you,” “I forgive you,” and “Please forgive me.” Be sure to tell them that you love them, and thank them for the positive differences they made in your life. If there was a rift between the two of you, offering or asking for forgiveness will be comforting for both of you. Stick to positive things, because anything negative isn’t helpful in the least. Be honest, but little “white lies” are often preferred. For example, “I’m trying as hard as I can, “ is preferable to, “It’s impossible.”
Words aren’t Everything
The things you say are only part of your final goodbye to the person you love. Your physical touch can also do a lot to help comfort someone who isn’t conscious. Don’t be afraid to hold their hand, stroke their hair, kiss their cheek, or hug them goodbye. Just your physical presence, being close to them, is positive and can offer more comfort than you might realize.
If Possible, Be Present
When life support is withdrawn, be present if it’s possible. This will help you feel more closure with the final action, and it’s often comforting for you and your loved one to know that they were not alone in their very last moments. If you think being present is too much for you to handle, however, and you would prefer not to be, don’t feel guilty or ashamed of your decision; it’s okay.
Jack Collins is a medical health professional who likes to give counsel to those making difficult life support decisions.