“I’m ready to die,” Mr. G. announced to his wife who was standing at his side. She understood this need as she had witnessed the decline from a lung disease which first stole the living out of life and then stole the life out of everything else as he fought to hold on for her. With tears sliding down her cheeks, she gave a nod that was nearly imperceptible. She was ready to let him go. I asked if I could pray for them. We held hands as we each felt confident in his heavenly homecoming. The place with no more tears and a new heavenly body.
His oxygen was switched to a nasal cannula. He was made comfortable and given morphine to diminish his “air hunger.” Not long after, I came to his room after being called by the nurse. His wife held his hand, head resting upon their entwined fingers as he slept. I walked in and she raised her head. Weariness was etched in her face. We stood on opposite sides of the bed as we watched his heart rate slow and finally stop. As Mrs. G gave Mr. G one last kiss, her tears were gone. It was time for rest, for both husband and wife. In the face of a long, difficult death…Rest. Is. Good.
I share this patient’s story for it demonstrated the beauty of having the opportunity to say that last goodbye. Yet, for so many, this doesn’t happen. Our hearts have been torp apart as loved ones are separated this past two years and death is in the company of strangers. However, the tragedy of death without goodbyes occurs every second of every day. Sudden deaths, far-away deaths, lonely deaths, violent deaths, and accidental deaths rob those left behind of their final goodbye.
The term closure in the context of grief implies accepting the reality of loss. It is not meant to deny the hole left in one’s heart by the death of the one who left their imprint there. When one has not had the opportunity to say goodbye, the acceptance of loss is more difficult. Harder still is the final last which is marred by harsh words, unspoken love, and bitter regret.
If you or someone you know is experiencing the trauma of the unspoken goodbye, here are steps to help you navigate these harsh waters of grief.
If you seek to comfort these grievers, sit with them, stay with them, hold their hand, be ok to be silent and speaking when they are able, do not state, “I know what you feel like”, in your desire to comfort. You can’t fully know.
My heart is heavy for you as I finish writing. I feel the weight of your grief and I know how these words may seem meant for someone else, someone who can breathe in the midst of their pain. If that is you, please hear me, I am praying for you now and I will continue to pray for you. Beloved, you are not alone.
[i] John Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Forgiveness: Your health depends on it. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved January 17, 2022, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/forgiveness-your-health-depends-on-it
[ii] American Psychiatric Association. (2021, November 10). Tips for Understanding Prolonged Grief Disorder. APA offers tips for understanding prolonged grief disorder. Retrieved January 17, 2022, from https://www.psychiatry.org/newsroom/news-releases/apa-offers-tips-for-understanding-prolonged-grief-disorder
[iii] Jordan, A. (2014, April 4). Prolonged grief disorder: Diagnostic … – dartmouth college. www.Dartmouth.edu. Retrieved January 17, 2022, from https://www.alexjordan.host.dartmouth.edu/papers/Jordan%20&%20Litz%20-%20Prolonged%20Grief%20Disorder.pdf