In many cases family members and friends do not have the opportunity to say goodbye to the loved one who died. Fatal car accidents, heart attacks, murders, etc, can be the cause of shock, anxiety and deeply felt grief. Many survivors are guilt ridden when in fact there is clearly no outward cause for such guilt. An unexpected death can wipe out our ability to see that we did not create the circumstances to cause the emotion being experienced. Even when a death occurs at the end of a long illness, if we were not by their side at the time of death, all the pain is maximized by the thought of not having been with the person at the end.
Here are some suggestions that have been helpful in situations where there was no time to say good-bye. We are all unique in our grieving, and some of these may not be suited to you. Read further, you will know which is right for you.
- Say goodbye in a private setting. Find a quiet room in your home, place a picture or other symbol of the loved one in front of you. Say whatever you need to say, explain why you were not there, why you are sorry and that you will always love them. If you believe in the afterlife, ask for a sign, however subtle that they are okay and have heard you. Be sure to attend the funeral service. It is traditionally the time and place where you get to say goodbye. A funeral service is like an ‘Acceptance Ceremony’ and can be tremendously helpful.
- Viewing the body can be especially important in these circumstances. Even if there is not an open casket at a funeral service, undertakers usually prepare the body for anyone who asks to view the body before it is wheeled in for the funeral. Otherwise one can view the body at the Mortuary prior to the funeral service. Be sure to phone first to arrange a suitable time for viewing.
- Write your goodbyes in a letter to the deceased. This can give profound emotional and physical release. Tell them you love them and will never forget them. Later when you are burdened by your thoughts of not having said good-bye, re-read the letter, there may be something else you would like to add to your writing at this time.
- Believe that your loved one understands your inability to say goodbye and would not hold a grudge. Divert your attention to a pleasant memory of the deceased and visualize them forgiving you. Say “I’m sorry” out loud, and then tell yourself, again out loud “its okay”. Repeat these words a few times, even if it makes you cry, it can be a profoundly helpful exercise.
We do have the ability to say a belated goodbye, recognise that separations without a goodbye sometimes happen, and start on the road to reinvesting in life.