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Saying Goodbye
 

“Saying “Goodbye” is never easy. Whether it’s because a child is leaving home, or our best friend has been transferred to a new job or, we are moving to a retirement home, there is often a great deal of sadness. There are other experiences of separation that are painful too but, with all of them there is always at least some prospect of seeing the other person again.


When someone we love dies however, it’s different. We face the painful reality that the separation is permanent, at least on this Earth. That’s why, whenever possible, it is important to say “Goodbye” to the person before he or she dies. Sadly, we don’t always have the opportunity to do that. Even when we do, it’s often not enough. We may need several more occasions to say “Goodbye” before we feel like we have really finished saying it.”

 
Thoughtful Planning
 

“That’s part of what the grieving process can provide. Thoughtful planning by family and friends together with the funeral director, clergy, and other caring people, will maximise the healing that comes from lovingly saying “Goodbye” to a person with whom we have shared our life.


Sometimes there are obstacles to that process however. One that I have observed a number of times in my work as a pastor and as a chaplain is the desire of the deceased person to “Have nothing done” when he or she dies. “Nothing done” usually means no funeral or memorial services. While no one wants to ignore the wishes of their loved one, it is important to consider the needs of those who are grieving as well. Perhaps agreement on a simplified funeral or even a memorial service can be reached. In that way, we can honour our loved one’s hope to minimise the time and expense for us at this time, while giving others the opportunity to say “Goodbye” to him or her.


While not all of our grief has to be shared in public gatherings and rituals, there is a great deal to be gained with such public expressions of grief. Wakes, or “Calling Hours” as they are sometimes known, are an opportunity to help one another share feelings about the death of someone important to us.
Facing them now will help to avoid the sometimes serious emotional consequences that can, and sometimes do, afflict us when we do not face death openly.”

 
Expressing Grief
 

“The rituals used by the various fraternal orders, civic organisations, and religious groups during this time can be very helpful, too. They remind us that our loved one’s death affected other people, too, and they need ways to express their grief as well. Even leaving the funeral home after each set
of “Calling Hours” can be very helpful. The very act of leaving the room means that we must take leave or say “Goodbye” to our loved one. This can be a helpful preparation for what we will experience at the funeral service.”

 

“The funeral or memorial service is another opportunity to say “Goodbye”. Most of us know that a lot of other thoughts are expressed in the average funeral or memorial service, and they can be very helpful. However, the very act of gathering for the service is a public reminder both that we have all lost someone important from our lives and that we must soon say “Goodbye” if we haven’t done so already.”

 
Leaving the Graveside
 

“Even the graveside service is important in the process of saying “Goodbye”. As tastefully prepared as the graveside will be, it is still a reminder that this is one journey that we cannot accompany the person on – at least not yet. The committal prayer and other readings can help us to let go a little more. If there is a military squad at the service, they too, help to say “Goodbye” by reminding us of comrades left behind. The playing of the “Taps” is an especially moving reminder of the finality of death and the need to say “Goodbye”.


Even after we leave the graveside there are still ways to help each other to grieve. Several of the churches that I’ve pastored over the years had a luncheon for the family and friends at the church. It is a help for the grieving families because it frees them from the need to plan a meal. It also gives everyone the opportunity to tell some of the stories of who the deceased person was to them over the years. There is something very healing about telling these stories. They give us a way to affirm who the deceased person was, as well as allowing us to express our loss in yet another way.”

 

“As important as it is to say “Goodbye” in these group settings, we may also need to have times with greater privacy for our grief. We might choose to have a private or family viewing of our loved one’s body. We could also set aside some time to walk along a path we used to share with our loved one, to travel to some place where we enjoyed a view or an entire vacation, or just to relive some memories by poring over photographs and other memorabilia. Even recording some of our feelings and thoughts in a journal can help us to work through some of our experiences of grieving.”

 

“One woman I knew several years ago demonstrated another way in which some of us may choose to say “Goodbye”. Her husband died quite
suddenly and she grieved very deeply over his death. So she visited the cemetery every day for several weeks as part of her ritual of saying “Goodbye” to him. She told me how some people thought she was a little strange for doing that. I assured her that there was nothing unusual in taking either that much time or that way to say “Goodbye”.”

 
Grieving is a Process
 

“Nor is there any specific length of time at the end of which we must be done with our grief. Weeks and months may be needed just to get past the worst of the pain. Even two years later some of us will experience days when our grief returns. Anniversaries of our loved one’s death can be especially sad for some of us. However, they can also be occasions when we recall and even talk about the goodness we knew in our loved one. Some people even have special worship services on these days if they belong to a church or synagogue.”

“There’s no one way to say “Goodbye” that’s right for everyone. There may be no one way that will say it completely for any one of us at one time. Funeral directors, clergy, and others can help those of us who grieve to explore a variety of ways to say “Goodbye”. Grieving is a process. Although time by itself does not heal our wounds, time is necessary for the healing to happen. My experience is that it really helps us to cope with our grief when we use a variety of ways and as much time as we need to complete our healing from the losses created by death.”

(by the Reverend  Larry La Pierre - USA)

 
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