Does being able to say goodbye help?

I was not able to say godbye to my husband. He was on a life support machine and brain damaged by drugs which had been medically given. I was never alone with him and when the machine was turned off, just held hiis hand while he died. He was not aware of any of his family who were with him.
My sister has only just lost her husband to asbestos related cancer. He was given no more than a year to live but lived for four. He wanted to die at home and was given all the care needed towards the end. He wanted to die as he was so ill and it was evident when he was. He was in his own bed and very drowsy from pain relief but aware. My sister lay by him, holding his hand. She was able to talk about their life together and say all the personal things that we all would like to be able to say. He squeezed her hand to respond before going.
She loved her husband as much as I did mine but seems to be handling his going so much better than me. I really think that being able to say goodbye properly helped such a lot. For me, not being able to say goodbye 18mths ago is a regret I will live with forever. Just re reading this makes me feel tearful.

So sorry for your loss. I didn’t get to say goodbye to my mum. She died suddenly in her sleep…I saw my mum in bed that morning…and I gave her a kiss…but I didn’t want to be on my own with my darling mum…I was scared even though I am in my 40s so other family members were there with her including my dad… I just wish I had had the courage to be on my own with her and tell her what a beautiful brilliant mum she’d been. .its been 10 months now and I do regret it. Take care June I’m sure that our loved ones know how much they were loved…I suppose I said my goodbyes at the funeral x

I am so sorry June, but I know exactly what you mean. My husband had been ill for a few years but his illness was one where we hoped he would keep pulling through the pneumonia bouts he kept having. He was in and out of hospital via ambulance so many, many times but he always came back home again. We kept wondering if his next infection would be his final one, but we never talked about it as he totally refused to believe he could die, even though the doctors wanted to discuss DNR my husband refused. It was as if he could not imagine never being well again. I was his 24/7 carer for over two years but he still would not admit how ill he was. There were things I wanted to say to him, tell him how much I loved him, how grateful I was for giving us such a wonderful life but the moment I started he said, Sheila, I don’t want to go there, I am okay. The Friday evening he was again taken into hospital with pneumonia, none of us knew that he would not be coming out again. I stayed with him overnight in HDU but he was restless and wearing a large oxygen mask that couldn’t be removed so I could not talk to him and if I had been able to he would not have been able to hear me because of the noise the machine was making so I just held his hand all night long. Our sons turned up at 6 am and I went for a cup of coffee and when I got back he was still asleep so our sons said, you go home for a few hours and we will stay with dad. Once home I could not rest, so I got changed and got a taxi back to the hospital. Our sons told me that the nurses had been in and changed their dad’s bed and he was still asleep. They then went for a sit down in the cafe but within minutes I had to call them back, they just got to their dad’s bedside when he died in my arms. I don’t know if he heard me tell him I loved him, tell him thank you for giving us a wonderful life, but I hope he did. I could not even spend two minutes with him after he had died as the nurses told me to leave as they wanted to see to my husband. I never saw him again as I was bombarded with paper work and told things would move slowly as it was the Bank Holiday. I feel so cheated out of not even being able to sit with the man I had loved for 50 years. I was going to see him in the Chapel of Rest but could not face seeing him like that, I wanted to sit with him in hospital whilst he looked as though he was sleeping but I was denied that. I so wish when he was at home, I had told him the things I wanted to say but he was always looking towards the future, as ill as he was, he was planning on buying a new car. I told our sons the other day that the only regret I have is not standing up to the nurses and refused to move until I had sat with my husband for as long as I wanted to, they said they understand but it happened so quickly and we really had not expected it so we were all in shock and they should have said something, so we all have our regrets. The main thing is June, we were there for our husbands when they passed away and no-one knows what they saw or heard and as far as we know, they may have been aware of their family around them holding their hand, so we have to take comfort in the fact that we were there with them in their final seconds on this earth, but for the past three years it has been at the back of my mind as I felt so guilty that I did not spend more time with my husband after he died and should have stood up for myself. Many people never get the chance to be with their loved ones and that must be devastating, especially if their loved ones died alone. My dad, sister, mum all died with me at the side of their bed but they were asleep so I will never know if they heard me or knew if I was there. But I know I was there and that means a lot. Don’t be hard on yourself, you were there for him when it mattered and that is all anyone can do for the person they love. Love Sheilaxxx

Hello Sheila
I have been following some of your responses on here and do feel for you so much, as I do others as well.
I note that you call yourself ‘Lonely’. This seems to be something that most of us feel after losing our loved ones, especially a husband or wife who we have shared our lives with on a personal level. I think that loneliness is one of the worst things about grieving. Even our children don’t fill that void.
As you say we all have regrets at things we didn’t do but at the time we did what we thought was right or where the medical profession is concerned, what we were able to do.
My husband was a year and a half ago prescribed steroids by a doctor at hospital and then saw various other doctors, none who changed the high dose he was on or in fact took responsibility. He developed fungal pneumonia, the fungus then went throughout his body affecting his immune system and finally his brain. He was sent to hospital by our GP in the earlier stages from the surgery and never came home again. He was put onto a breathing machine and put into a coma situation, being fed by tubes for 3weeks. I had to give permission to turn of the life support that was keeping him alive. A short version of what he went through. I also never saw him in the chapel of rest as his body had become bloated and unrecognisable. I didn’t want to remember my darling husband of more than 50yrs like that.
What never helped was that I had to have numerous phone calls and meeting with hospital management, who eventually apologised for his lack of care. This was before and just after his funeral.
We all know that in a marriage or partnership, one of us is going to be left and we did talk about it, especially as we were both oldies. The trouble is that although you talk, it isn’t real until it happens. I just thank God that he went before me as he had already previously has a stroke which he got over, but would never have been able to cope on his own.
I find the loneliness and quietness the worst thing now but know that like others before me, must learn to cope with it. I do hope that you have some sort of healing soon. xx

Hello June thank you for replying, my husband seemed to be in a similar position to your husband, bombarded with Steroids, they were making him so ill, his hair was falling out, he could not get out of the chair so we told the specialist to stop giving him them. He was non too pleased but did as we asked and my husband improved straight away, his hair grew back he could get out of the chair with help from me. They put on his medical records ‘No Steroids to be given’ as when he was rushed into A & E the first thing they would do was give him oxygen and steroids so I ensured I was always there to put my two pennyworth in. I think they got fed up of me because I could list all his medication off immediately, how much oxygen he was on, sitting, standing etc. saved them looking through medical records. In the end he got Pseudomonas a terrible infection and is very hard to treat, he was told they could control it but never get rid of it so that was the problem it kept flaring up and then he got pneumonia. I am so sorry for what you went through, having to turn of your loved ones life support system must have been absolutely heartbreaking, I am glad I didn’t have to make that choice. The doctors started giving Peter Morphine because his blood was full of Carbon Dioxide and they said it was turning acidic, I think they call it Acidosis or something like that, which destroys the organs in the body so whilst I had gone for a coffee and our sons were with him they gave him some more Morphine to help him sleep so we never got the chance to talk to him. The evening he was rushed into hospital, our sons were coming to see us and bringing us some fish and chips and Peter said, tell them to bring me a Chip Butty will you I feel hungry, so we never, ever thought that those would be the last words he spoke to me. After that he got really ill and I called an ambulance. Luckily our sons had turned up so were there with us, it really upset them as they had never, in all the 2/3 years seen their dad rushed into hospital. Our eldest said to me, ‘oh mum, what have you both been going through these last few years’, we had kept everything low-key, never told them just how bad things were as we didn’t want to worry them. They never saw how long it took me to get Peter washed and dressed because he knew his sons were visiting him, so when they arrived he was sat in his chair, smiling. When they asked him how he was all he said was I’m fine thanks how are you two. After he died they were a bit cross with me for not telling them how bad things were so I told them that their dad didn’t want them worrying about him. Did we do the right thing, I honestly don’t know. Yes June, I am terribly lonely, as we all are and it doesn’t matter who we go out with, sons, grandchildren, friends, there is always someone missing and that someone is the one person that you really want to spend time with and no-one else. I am sending all my love to you and truly hope you find the courage to get through each day the best you can because if we don’t try and do this then we may as well give up, and my Peter would be annoyed with me if I wasted what little time I have left as he loved life so much, even when he was ill. Love Sheila xxxx

Dear June, I can understand your torment over your loss of the man you clearly loved so very much, I lost my husband to cancer and we did have a little time but because we loved each other so very much neither of us could bear to speak about was happening, I wasn’t brave enough to face what was happening, even though I knew it was deep down, but we just couldn’t talk about it. I couldn’t visualise my husband not being in my life or his funeral, even four months on I feel that it didn’t really happen and he will be home from work soon. So I think whatever the final circumstances are, your left with the pain, suffering and questioning what would have been a better ending, I think the main thing for you and I we were both there by there sides, my husband was unconscious for the last two days of his life so I don’t think he knew I was there, but I was, as you was, we couldn’t have done anything more, we loved them and always will. Just replying makes me tearful too x

I lost my partner of thirty three years suddenly while he was aboard.he was buried within 24 hours. No goodbye no whispering into his ear just gone. Because of the different culture I got a text and a photo of him lying dead inside a crate. My heart aches I would give up everything I owned just to be able to say goodbye. All I know he went abroad to a funeral the day he left my sister in law died she was 46 he was coming back to take me to her funeral and he died I’m at a total loss walking on the very edge of life.

I’m sorry for your loss June x

Dear June
I totally agree with you not being able to say goodbye haunts me every day. Three and a half years ago my darling husband went to work and never came home I got a call to say he had been taken to hospital over an hours drive away, and whilst I was waiting for a lift to get to him the doctor at the hospital rang me and told me over the phone he was dead. I was in so much shock that when I got to the hospital I just spent five minutes with him which I regret every day. I wish I could turn the clock back and I am still struggling nearly four years on. A lady I know whose hubby died last December seems to be coping better than me he had an illness and she was with him when he die. I have can’t turn the clock back and have to live with it but the dark days still come. A friend said to me a few weeks ago that she thought by now I would be feeling better!!! They have no idea do they. We had some great times and I try to hold on to all of that. Take care - Marilyn

Hi Everbody i cant remember if i said goodbye to my darling wife .But being honest that doesnt haunt me at all .What does haunt me is that she has gone to heaven and that im all alone Colin

Hi, I lost my Mum on the 5th of July this year. I knew she was terminally ill and yet couldn’t bring myself to say goodbye, I was so in denial that I never said any of the things I should have done. It was as if I did, I was admitting to myself that she was dying and I couldn’t cope with the reality.
She must have been very disappointed in me and that breaks my heart.
I did practical things for her and cared for my Dad who has dementia, I cooked and cleaned and made sure she had her medication but what I really should have done was given her emotional support and I found this impossible.
Please don’t feel bad that you were unable to say goodbye, I’m sure you would have done if you could and I’m sure your husband would have known that.
I live with the guilt that my lovely Mum knew in her last days that I was unwilling to say goodbye not unable and that is so much worse. If there’s another place I hope she knows how much I loved her and still do.
I miss her everyday x

I totally identify with all of the emotions expressed here, as I struggle every day with feelings of guilt that I didn’t do enough and didn’t say the right things at the end. Keith was 67 and we were together nearly 41 years - 38 married. He developed osteoporosis some years ago which affected his spine and legs, but he started to have shoulder pains at the beginning of January 2017 and the doctor referred him to physiotherapist because she suspected a trapped nerve. I had had experience of a friend who was diagnosed with lung cancer after having severe shoulder and arm pains, and I was very concerned as Keith had been a smoker a,though he gave up 22 years ago. He wouldn’t entertain any thought of it, and told me I was a drama queen, always looking at the worst case scenario. He was responding to inti inflammatory medicines and nerve pain treatment, so I let it go.

He got an appointment for physio but before he could attend, he had a fall at the beginning of March and broke his leg. He had a full chest x ray panel before surgery and they said he was fine to go under general anaesthetic, which reinforced to him, that I had been wrong about the lung cancer as nothing untoward was on the x rays. When he came out of hospital I found a lump at the top of his leg and called the doctor. She suspected (rightly) a blood clot and he was treated for DVT. Two weeks after he came out of hospital he started to look unwell but insisted he was just having a hard time coping with the restrictions imposed by his leg injury. I was still worried and called our GP out several times - she examined him carefully, listened to his chest and couldn’t find anything wrong. Three days after the last GP visit, he went to bed early and when I went to check on him, I couldn’t wake him. I called an ambulance and he was admitted to ITU with severe pneumonia - so bad that three days after admission he was sedated and put on a ventilator while they tried to clear the infection.

After a week on the ventilator he was no better and they did a bronchoscopy, which didn’t find any underlying cause, so they arranged a CT scan. We were shocked beyond words when the doctor called us in to say that the scan had revealed a large tumour in his left lung, which had all the hallmarks of primary lung cancer, and which had already spread to his spine and ribs. The following day Keith had been taken off sedation and was awake and tolerating the ventilator. We communicated with a mixture of me talking and him making hand signals, but when I got up to leave with my sister in law at the end of visiting, he held me back. I stayed after they left and it was obvious he wanted to say something important - he was worried about how I was coping. I am in a wheelchair and Keith had always been my primary carer as well as my husband, best friend and soulmate. I assured him that I was ok and coping, and that his family had been wonderful. Then I launched into a speech about how much I loved him and how I was going to take him home and look after him the way he had looked after me all these years. I will never forget the sadness in his eyes as he looked at me. I realise now that he knew he was dying and that he had probably been trying to communicate that. At the time I couldn’t think about telling him the truth of his condition because I really didn’t know what the medics were going to do - they had said they would be discussing his treatment that evening and would let us know how they planned to proceed.

I left at the end of visiting and told him I would see him tomorrow and we would talk some more. The following morning I got a phone call asking me to go in and see the doctors, when I and his family arrived, the doctor said that the cancer team had studied the scans and determined that the cancer could not be treated, as Keith’s condition meant that he couldn’t tolerate either surgery or chemotherapy. They were asking us to let the, take him off the ventilator to pass away peacefully, as the alternative would mean weeks and possibly months of suffering while the cancer spread unchecked. He was already unconscious and he died a few hours after they stopped life support - he never regained consciousness.

I am left with guilt and sadness that I didn’t understand what he was trying to say that final night, even though I didn’t know that the next day I would lose him. I feel I should have been truthful, and yet that would have been cruel. I do know that what I did, I did with love and without the benefit of the hindsight I have now, but I have no real closure because the look on his face and the sadness in his eyes haunts me, and probably always will. I also feel terrible guilt for not insisting that he address my fears about lung cancer. If I had been more insistent they may have caught it earlier, but his pain was put down to the effects of the fall, and the fact that nothing showed up on an x ray seemed to point to the diagnosis of a trapped nerve. I will probably never forgive myself for any of it, and that guilt and lack of closure is making the grief much more difficult to deal with. We had no real opportunity to talk, but I still think about what I could have said to comfort him. Hindsight is 20-20 and had I known that this would be the last time we ever spoke, maybe I would have acted differently. I think when a loved one is about to pass away - especially when it’s sudden or unexpected - fear and distress play a huge part in dictating our actions and it’s only afterwards we realise that we only have one chance to get it right. I would imagine few of us do and human nature is such that we blame ourselves and shoulder the guilt for things that in reality are beyond our control. I’m sure that in time these feelings will resolve themselves and to anyone in the same situation I would say you’re not alone, and that guilt and lack of closure are the norm in the grieving process. There are so many emotions connected with grief, some of which hit us all at once, and some creep in months later. When Keith went into hospital the news just kept getting worse - this had all come out of the blue. When I realised he would not survive the various emotions hit and the experience was overwhelming. When he died I just shut down and was numb for weeks. Now, four and a half months on, the numbness and shock are gone and the feeling of loss is raw and painful. Our life together seems like a dream, and I can’t accept that he is gone and will never come back, even though I know in my head that this is true. For me, the grieving has now changed from the shock of the suddenness of it all, and the loss of the man himself, to loneliness and fear for what the future holds without him. You gradually realise that it’s not just the person you’ve lost, but your whole way of life. Everything has changed and it will never be the same again. This new life is not a choice, but I have faith that Keith is with me still in spirit, and that in time I will learn how to accept what has happened and find a way through it.

I didn’t get to say goodbye to my son, he died suddenly just over 2 years ago when he was 17. I miss him all the time . I believe in a life after this one and I’m certain he’s with me and my other son James and that one day I’ll be with him again .

Hi June - I know just how you feel. My wife Lyn was suffering from lung cancer and was rushed into hospital with a high fever following her latest period of chemotherapy. I spent the best part of 18 hours at her side and on the assurance of her doctor that she would recover I came home for a few hours sleep only to receive a call a couple of hours later to say she had passed away. So we never got our chance to say goodbye.
I feel so guilty that she was on her own but my old mum said she probably hung on while I was by her side so that I wouldn’t find her passing so difficult.
That was five years ago and not a day passes that I don’t miss my other half. Lyn was always the other half of me thay made my life complete. Loneliness as a word doesn’t begin to explain the way I feel every day.

My wife died in my arms with one of her two sons holding a hand. So emotional but she knew we were with her. That was six months ago and I had cared for her through 30 months of lung cancer. Today I was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus and I hope someone is with me too.

Sorry for all, Awful times. After 46yrs my lovely passed away in front of me, and, luckily, our three children all of a sudden from MND. We new it would come, as there is no cure, but on the night, quite a shock, she just stopped breathing.
Had no time to talk even. But thankfully, we new and talked about this time during a couple of weeks before, so both of us was expecting it.
I too, believe in life after death, and spiritualism.
She insisted i not be alone when she went. Six months after, i joined a Widow/Widower club. and have met some wonderful company, from people in the same lonely predicament. Its really given me a lift, talking with ladies who are going through the same awful experiences, makes you realize your not alone, and that it becomes easier to support each other, than on your own…John

Dear Mogberi,

I just wanted to say how sorry I was to read your message and the news you have had today. I am sure your sons will be with you through everything that happens.


Hi VMB123,

I lost my Mum last year and was with her right to the end. When we were told she was terminally ill all she said was I want to go home and I don’t want to be on my own. She came home and died weeks later with me next to her bed. I was in denial all the time she was at home, despite knowing what was to come I couldn’t believe it would really happen. I was in shock then and for months after she passed away.

I don’t think I exactly said goodbye to her, I don’t know as I have blotted so much of those awful weeks out. All i can remember is sitting by her when she was unconscious and just talking to her not knowing what if anything she could hear. She was very deaf so it would just have been noises to her I think but I hope she knew I was there.

I miss her terribly every day still, so many things left to say and discuss with her. When the best friend you could ever have goes it is beyond belief. I told her every night how much i loved her and used to kiss her goodnight. I had stopped doing that years before as a bolshy teenager so she must have known it was serious for me to start again.

I muddle on from day to day and think about her constantly. I hope if there is an afterlife she is with my Dad and they are watching over me.


Hi June. I understand exactly how you feel. I wasn’t able to say goodbye to my husband. He went into hospital on the Thursday and died on the Saturday. I went home as I had no idea he was going to die. The hospital rang me and told me he had deteriorated and to come. He couldn’t speak. He squeezed my hand but I don’t know what that meant. I will never forget those last hours. The time to say goodbye was somehow stolen from me. I was so numb I didn’t know what to say to him or whether he could hear me.My only consolation is that he didn’t live as an invalid. I have friends whose husbands or wives are barely living and suffering a lot. It is better to die quickly without suffering but very hard for those left behind. Take care. Pattoa.

I completely understand my husband never came home from work either . I was waiting for him to come home he was a little bit late so I started to phone him when there was a knock on my door it was the police to say that he had had a heart attack that afternoon and had passed away . I never got to be with him and I still can’t get passed the shock of it all I still feel I’m waiting for him to come home . The last time I spoke to him was in the morning as we went to work when we said "bye love you see you later " then my world fell apart that day . That was 13 months ago 1st August 2016 that day is imprinted on my mind forever . We were married for 44 years so the only consultation is that I have lots of happy memories of our life together and 3 lovely children and 6 lovely grandchildren to keep me going when days get hard . Sending hugs to you x