Pre-Grieving: How We Say Goodbye and Honor a Loved One in Their Final Days

Writen by guest blogger Lucille Rosetti, The Bereaved

As medical science improves, doctors are able to say with greater certainty how much time a person suffering from old age, or terminal illness will have left on this earth. Handling the news that a loved one is dying is always difficult, and in many ways, can be more emotionally taxing than facing death after it already occurs. One of the hardest things to do in life is to look someone in the eye when you they do not have much time left. However hard it may be, it’s important that we do what we can to support our loved ones, and try our best to care for them and their needs in their final days. There are probably many questions you have about how to best handle such a delicate situation, so here are four things to keep in mind when a pre-grieving a loved one.

1. Accept the Reality of the Situation

When it comes to hearing news that a loved one is dying, denial affects more people than you might think. Sometimes it’s so difficult to accept hard news, that we pretend like we never even heard it in the first place, and go on about or lives like nothing is happening. Of course, this isn’t a healthy approach to pre-grieving, and though it might be hard news to swallow, you need to accept the reality of the situation. The sooner you accept the gravity of the news, and what this means not only for you, but also the person who is dying, then you will be better equipped to communicate with the dying as well as tend to their needs.

2. Handle the Business of Dying Sooner than Later

Unfortunately, death provides more questions than answers and some of these questions will come up at some point during the process. What will you do with the remains the deceased, when will the service be, how will the possessions be handled, and so on. These questions are never easy to answer, but when the person who is dying has a chance to dictate the manner of their passing in the way that makes them happy, you have a unique opportunity. After the initial impact of the news, it would be a good idea to sit down with the loved one and go through these questions. While it’s never easy to talk about these sorts of things, you can at least find out the best way to know and honor the wishes of your loved one before they pass away.

3. When You Can’t Find the Words to Say, just Listen

Handling the business side of death sooner allows you to focus on what really matters later. Now with the business out of the way, you can try to make the most of the time you have left with your loved one. Understandably, it can be hard to find the right words to say in such a situation. The best advice is to follow their lead. Let them speak first, and then give them a respond in kind. If you are so ridden with grief that you still can’t verbalize a normal response, let them know why. There’s no reason to hide your feelings in these final moments shared with a loved one.


4. Make Their Comfort Your Priority

The most important thing to remember when pre-grieving is to not forget the immediate needs of your loved one. As they approach their final days, it can be difficult for them to speak, or move. They may be overwhelmed with exhaustion, or even pain. You should always communicate enough to give them what they need, and try to maximize their comfort in their final days.

The utmost rule is to care for your loved one, and treat their last moments with respect and grace. After all, that’s what it’s all about: caring for your loved one and treating him or her as you would want to be treated. As long as we show kindness and compassion to our loved ones throughout the process, they will be able to say goodbye with the dignity they deserve.

Photo Credit:

pre-grieving –

denial  –

these questions –

find the right words –

maximize their comfort  –



Lucille Rosetti 💚

l_rosetti@thebereaved.orgThe Bereaved

Posted in For Families.


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