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Five Essential Things to Say to a Dying Person

Sometimes in life, an unexpected loss can prevent us from saying the important things that need to be said to our loved ones before they pass. In these cases, we may be left with lifelong regrets, wondering things like “what if I had a chance to say goodbye?”

With this in mind, when we’re given the gift of being present in a loved one’s final moments, we must take advantage of this time by saying these essential things. In many cases it may be hard to find the words, but with a few suggestions it can be made a little easier.

When there can’t be physical healing for your loved one, there can sometimes be relational healing for you both. For you, relational healing can provide special blessings, such as mitigating regret and finding peace as time goes on. For them, it can bring solace as they go through their final moments.

If your loved one can’t communicate anymore due to illness or incapacitation, I still encourage you to speak to them. There is a power in hearing those words yourself. When you can’t get the answers you hope for, you can at least know that you tried, hopefully eliminating any future “what ifs.

what to say to a dying person

What to Say to a Dying Person

These five essential things to say to a dying person are not meant to be in any specific order by priority. Different people will put different value on each one. Some may apply to you, others may not. Please use them where you see fit. And while some may seem simple and cliché, they can truly open up space for a relationship to find peace.

  1. Please forgive me. Forgiveness can be daunting. It’s natural to hesitate if you seek it, but once you ask for it, you’ll feel better. If you believe your loved one holds any grievances towards you, it will be of great relief to the both of you to let those go. You can continue your life and they can conclude theirs knowing a past issue has been resolved.
  1. I forgive you. Offering forgiveness can be even more daunting than seeking it, but it will deliver great relief and renewal in the end. When you offer your forgiveness to a loved one, you give them a final gift of passing in peace.
  1. I love you. These three little words are so special. Everyone deserves to hear them, but so often we may go on without sharing them. Ask yourself when was the last time was that you said “I love you” to this person? No matter when it was, say it again. If ever there was a time to share these words, it’s now.
  1. Thank you. There’s a story told that an author once tried to copyright a book that would have the word “thanks printed a million times, but couldn’t by law because “thank you” is a common use phrase. Let that serve as a reminder to use use these words freely and often — they don’t cost anything! Sometimes it may be “Thank you for all that you taught me,” or “Thanks for taking care of me when I was in need,” or “Thank you for all that you are to me.” Whatever it may be, don’t wait.
  1. Saying goodbye brings closure to a relationship. But sometimes it’s just too hard to say. In that case, consider saying, “Until we meet again.” It makes a huge difference. Saying this is a reminder that a loved one is never gone, but that they always remain in your heart. This will help you in your time of grief.

I hope these five essential things to say to a dying person encourage you and bring you peace in these difficult times. When we open up, we allow our loved ones to pass feeling content and happy. Everyone deserves to find this happiness at the end of their journey.


David Heineman
Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care


Crossroads provides physical, emotional, and spiritual support to terminally ill patients. To learn more about how to respond to end-of-life signs, please call 1-888-564-3405.

Recommended Reading:

Finding Meaning at End of Life
Prayers for the Dying: A Prayer for Hospice Patients
Signs and Symptoms of Spiritual Distress


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Copyright © 2018 Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care. All rights reserved.


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