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What to Say to the Dying

“We never face death until death unequivocally faces us”. -Christine Longacre

Part of the cycle of life is experiencing the end of a loved one’s life. Being present and offering kind, good, healing words is something that will live within you for the rest of your life. Since most of us do not know how to be there when someone is dying, here are some pointers on how these last conversations can be beautifully meaningful for both of you.

1. Don’t wait. A terminal prognosis is just that – and the person you love has things to express to you too. The time spent together. They will be comforted by your words in the present, and the memory of it will be a comfort to you after they are gone.

2. Show Up. Early and often. Or as often as you can. It is your time spent with this person that matters.

3. Before Showing Up. Make sure you are in a place of peace before visiting. If you don’t feel calm, peaceful and centered, take fifteen minutes to quiet yourself before arriving.

4. Say “Thank you.” Let them know the positive ways they have touched your life, what you learned from them. They will know they were significant in your life by hearing your words.

5. Ask for Forgiveness and Forgive. It is okay to acknowledge that you may have wronged this person. A critical gesture or meanness – apologize and ask for forgiveness. Forgive by letting go of anger – time to move on and get past all of it because time is of the essence here.

Many studies show that hearing is the last sense to leave, so keep talking,

even if you're not sure you're being heard.


Patti Urban, CSA, is the CEO of Aging Care Planning Solutions, an aging life care management company that assists the elderly and their families with advance care planning as well as guidance for patients with life-limiting illnesses. She is also a Certified End of Life Doula. She can be reached at

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