This morning I read in an obituary that a woman in my community “Left this life peacefully in the arms of her husband, children and grandchildren.” Another obituary stated, “She died peacefully surrounded by her loving family.” 

The deaths described sound almost surreal. Is it realistic for us to want to have this type of death experience with our own loved ones? And if so, are we setting ourselves up for disappointment? How often does someone get to be there when their loved one dies? And what if we are there and the death is anything but peaceful?

I began to wonder about this topic when a good friend shared with me a deep-seated disappointment that she was unable to be present at her mother’s death. She always thought she would be there to hold her hand and say goodbye as her mom passed peacefully away. Instead, her mother died unexpectedly, in a hospital, with no family present. My friend received a phone call announcing her mother’s death and she is having a terribly hard time getting past this.

Today’s obituaries have caused me to wonder; does being present at a death impact the depth of pain or the intensity of mourning? Does it make a difference if you have an opportunity to say that last goodbye?

My friend is not the only one who feels remorse following a loved one’s death. Others have shared with me that they did not have a chance to say goodbye, they did not recall the last time they said, “I love you,” and many had loose ends in their relationships that they thought they would have time to resolve.

What can we learn from these experiences? Be realistic and do not wait for the time of death to open your heart. Say “I love you” often so you will not wonder when you said it last. Don’t wait to mend your relationships; there may never be the right time to do so. Keep in touch frequently and let your friends and loved ones know they matter. Live your life lovingly and caringly and you just may have fewer regrets.

Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now at a reduced price for e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store.

Photo via photopin (license) What I got to do to make you love me?

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Comment by Peggy Eldridge on November 30, 2015 at 10:54pm

Very true. The last time I was able to talk with my husband was great. We had lunch together, I scratched his back and told him I loved her very much. The next day he went into cardiac arrest, then put on a vent. Eventually he died with ARDS on 11-10-15. I am so grateful for that day for him and myself.

Comment by Lynci on October 2, 2015 at 10:32am

Your words are very true. Though we may not be able to say the final goodbye due to unforeseen occurrences, not having any regrets towards how we may have treated that person, would help in the long run when it comes to the pain we feel at their departure. It will simply be pain that they left at all, rather than subunits of pain regarding them leaving, how you treated them, the last time you saw or spoke to them, etc. Thank you for this post!

Comment by T.C. Goodwin on August 19, 2015 at 9:15am

Thanks for your post...Our words can be as harmful as a sword. Words can hurt us. It is best to mend relationships before its too late (NWT Proverbs 12: 18)

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