How to Say a Proper Goodbye: 28 Messages to Use

Updated

Saying goodbye is universal. We will all face it at some point in our lives, often many times. Despite that, no one is practiced at what to say when we encounter saying goodbye to loved ones.

When a loved one is moving, leaving a place of work, or even dying, we struggle to find the right words to let them know what they’ve meant to us.

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The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all way to say goodbye. But it is important to say goodbye. You can customize your parting message to a friend or family member who's leaving.

Let your farewell be informed by the kind of relationship you have with them. Read on for more tips and suggestions on personalizing your goodbyes. 

Post-mortem tip: If you didn't get a chance to say goodbye to a loved one before they passed, allow us to give you some guidance to ease your pain in this article

5 Quick Tips for Saying Goodbye

Tips on how to say goodbye with an image of leaves in the background

Saying goodbye is always difficult. The intensity of this moment is magnified further when the goodbye is permanent. But these quick tips can help you find the right words to say.

Don’t be afraid to say goodbye

A lot of times we resist the urge to say goodbye. We don’t want our loved ones to feel as though we’re giving up on them. But people who are dying know they’re dying. Tiptoeing around it doesn’t do anyone any favors.

If you miss your chance to say goodbye, you’ll likely regret not taking the time when you had it. 

Reassure them

Even if you’re speaking honestly about leaving you can still provide comfort. Let your loved one know everything you’ll do to continue supporting them.

This can include when you’ll be there to spend time for them, or what you’ll do to advocate for them. You can also reassure them that things will be okay after they’re gone. We all worry about the people we’ll leave behind. Ease that concern by talking about the things you’ll do in the future.

But don’t just talk in vague terms. Tell your loved one the specific things you’ll do to help their family. 

Speak from the heart

When we say goodbye to a loved one, it’s important to share what they mean to us. Be specific and sincere.

Let your loved one how they have impacted your life. It will be meaningful to them and bring comfort to you both.  

Cover a range of emotions

A goodbye doesn’t have to be solemn and sober. You can bring humor and positivity into your farewell message, too.

Even when someone is leaving, they still need joy and light in their world. They may need it more than ever. Don’t be afraid to reminisce about happy times or tell silly jokes. You can still have a profound goodbye with good humor. 

Put it in writing

If you’re still worried you don’t know the right words to say, you can always write a letter instead. This option will allow you to organize your thoughts. And it gives you space to make sure you include everything you want to communicate.

If your loved one is dying or in critical condition, they may not be able to read what you have written. That’s okay — you can read it aloud to them. This will help you make sure you say everything you want to.  

Funny Ways to Say Goodbye

Example of a funny way to say goodbye with an image of the sky and clouds in the background

It’s okay to be silly or lighthearted when saying goodbye to a loved one. Many terminally ill people develop a dark sense of humor. They will appreciate people who can share that humor with them. Even people who don’t go for gallows humor will appreciate a break from serious conversations.

If you don’t trust yourself to come up with something funny on the spot, there are plenty of humorous grief quotes out there. Maybe some of these ideas will lead you to the joke you feel comfortable sharing with your loved one. 

1. “When you said you were thinking about retiring soon, I thought you meant from your job. I didn’t know you were retiring from life!”

Puns are a great way to bring a little levity to a situation. They are a gentle and silly form of humor. Dads, in particular, can’t resist puns.

They’re the perfect way to show your father that his dad jokes will continue even when he is no longer around.  

2. “There are no happy endings. / Endings are the saddest part, / So just give me a happy middle / And a very happy start.” 

Parents all over the world have read Shel Silverstein’s books and poems to their children.

If your parent is dying, you can harken back to those childhood days by sharing this tender quote from him. It is moving, but also uplifting. 

3. Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it.”

W. Somerset Maugham was an English playwright and author. He is best known for dramatic works like Of Human Bondage. But this quote of his shows the wry humor he could wield, even around topics like death. 

4. “Death is nature’s way of telling you to slow down.”

This famous quote isn’t attributed to anyone in particular. But it can be perfect for a certain type of person.

If your friend or loved one is a high-performing person, they’ll be frustrated with being forced to slow down. This is a gentle way to poke fun at that. It might also open the door to deeper conversations about that challenge. 

Heartfelt Ways to Say Goodbye

Example of a heartfelt way to say goodbye with an image of the ocean in the background

Not everyone is comfortable with making light of a goodbye. If you’re not someone who feels like incorporating humor into a goodbye, that’s okay. A simple and emotional goodbye is always deeply appreciated.

Music is a great way to tap into emotions. Listening to songs about death may help you channel those heartfelt feelings. Or you can just look inward and speak from the heart. 

5. "How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."

A.A. Milne is known for creating the sentimental Winnie the Pooh series. It’s no surprise then that he’s so adept at expressing a lovely farewell in just a few words.

This line is appropriate for so many different friends and family members. 

6. "You and I will meet again, When we're least expecting it, One day in some far-off place, I will recognize your face, I won't say goodbye my friend, For you and I will meet again."

Tom Petty was one of the greatest songwriters of all time. This line from his song “You and I Will Meet Again” helps communicate that even after death, we may be reunited with our loved ones. 

7. "May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of his hand."

This Irish blessing is a spiritual way to say goodbye to a loved one. It’s a lovely sentiment for a loved one who is religious, even if you don’t share their faith. 

8. “I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.”

Banksy, a renowned political activist and street artist, is known for his temporary art installations. He understands the brief impact we have on this world.

But though his work is often temporary, his legacy will outlive those pieces. And that’s how life is too. Even if we say goodbye to someone, they’ll live on as long as we remember them. Use this quote to communicate to your loved one that they won’t be forgotten. 

Ways to Say Goodbye in Different Languages

Example of how to say goodbye in another language with an image of mountains in the background

If you still find it too hard to say goodbye, you can always try saying it in a different language. It may be easier for you to say the words in a different language altogether. Here are some simple phrases in a collection of assorted languages. 

9. “À bientôt.” 

There are many ways to say goodbye in French. “Adieu” and “au revoir” are both well-known ways to say goodbye.

“À bientôt” is a little less commonly used, and it’s a little more casual. Instead of “goodbye”, it more closely translates to “see you later.” If you’re having trouble with the permanence of goodbye, try this farewell instead.     

10. “Hasta luego.”

As with French, the Spanish language has many ways of saying goodbye. “Adios” and “hasta la vista” are some go-to ways to say goodbye.

“Hasta luego” is a great way to say goodbye to someone you’re close to, as it’s an informal phrase. It loosely translates to “see you later”, which can again help you feel like your goodbye is not permanent.  

11. “Buona sera.”

Romance languages are beautiful and expressive, and Italian is no exception. The words “arrivederci” and “ciao” both translate to goodbye. But there are more poetic ways to say goodbye, too.

“Buona sera” translates to “good evening” and “buona notte” translates to “good night.” Either phrase is an appropriate and lovely way to say goodbye as the sun sets on someone’s life.  

12. “Namaste.”

If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you’ve heard the word “namaste.” It serves as a greeting in Hindi and Nepalese, and it was originally derived from Sanskrit. The word can also serve as a goodbye.

It translates to “I bow to the divine in you.” This single word carries with it a great deal of spiritual significance. It serves as a simple and beautiful farewell. 

Sweet Ways to Say Goodbye

If there’s ever a time you’re allowed to be sentimental, it’s when you’re saying goodbye to a loved one. Whether you’re speaking to family or friends, thoughtful messages like this are a sweet and simple way to show how much you care.

13.  “I don’t know if it’s possible for me to express just how much you’ve enriched my life. You have helped make me the person I am today. I will forever carry with me the wisdom that you have imparted.”

If you’ve had a friend or mentor who has changed your life, make sure they know how much you appreciate it. While they may feel sad about saying goodbye to you, they’ll know that their influence will continue. 

14. “While we may not have worked out as a couple, I still have nothing but love for you in my heart. We may be saying goodbye  to our relationship, but I’m leaving the door open for friendship in the future.”

Some relationships end. Others just evolve into something new. While some people prefer saying goodbye permanently after a breakup, sometimes there is still a connection worth preserving. 

15.  “I’m so excited about my upcoming move, but I’m heartbroken about leaving you. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had. I know we’ll keep in touch, but it will be so hard not being able to see you all the time. Being apart from you will be one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced, because I adore you so much.”

Major life events like job offers can take you away from your loved ones unexpectedly. This can be bittersweet. Even as you look forward to new opportunities, you can’t help but look back at everything - and everyone - you’re leaving behind.  

16. “Thank you for taking me in when I had nowhere else to go. I bounced around a lot of places, but this is where I finally found my home. I’ll never forget the kindness you have shown to me, and I’ll do everything I can to pay it forward. We may not be blood, but you’ll always be my family.” 

Sadly, not everyone can grow up in a safe and loving home. But foster parents and other kind souls often step up to provide shelter to kids in need. Being honest and open with your emotions is a greater gift to them than you will know.

Indirect Ways to Ways to Say Goodbye

While it’s always hard to say goodbye, some people have a much more difficult time with it than others. Perhaps you’re planning to leave for a new job, but you’re restricted from sharing that information with other people. Maybe you have a terminal illness and don’t have the energy for endless emotional farewells. In cases like these, indirectly saying goodbye is a perfectly acceptable option. 

17.  "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Sometimes music is helpful for expressing feelings that we can’t verbalize ourselves. This line from the song “Closing Time” by Semisonic can be adapted to all kinds of situations.

18. “Goodbye always makes my throat hurt.”

Believe it or not, this evocative quote is attributed to the children’s cartoon character Charlie Brown. For a more personal spin, add to the sentiment. You can say something like: “So I won’t say that word. Instead, I’ll just say see you later.”

19.  “So long, and thanks for all the fish!” 

This line is excerpted from the Douglas Adams book with the same title. It’s a classic line, but out of context, it’s silly and absurd. It’s perfect for a lighthearted, euphemistic farewell. If you’re saying this line to someone who loves science fiction, they’ll definitely appreciate it.

20. “You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing.”    

If you’ve read the classic children’s book Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, you may recognize this line.  That book was about an unconventional friendship, so this line is appropriate to use as a unique farewell.  

How to Say Goodbye to Someone Forever

Some goodbyes are only temporary. Saying goodbye to a sibling studying abroad is an emotional event, but at least you know they’ll come home someday. But there are times when a goodbye is more permanent. The most obvious example of this is when someone dies. If you or a loved one is dying, a proper goodbye can help provide some much-needed closure. 

21. “When I look back at my childhood, there are so many happy moments I associate with you. You’ve taught me so many things, whether it was the words to every song in The Music Man or how to prepare your special green bean casserole. You even taught me how to cheat at poker. As soon as my daughter is born, I promise that I’ll teach her all those things and tell her how cool her great-grandmother was. I’ll miss you so much.”

Grandparents have such a formative influence in our lives, but they often leave us too soon. Let them know that their influence will live on long after they’re gone. 

22. “When we said ‘Til death do us part,’ we had no idea that day would come so soon. But even if we could have seen the future, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Marrying you was the best decision I’ve ever made. Though we only spent a few years together, you’ve given me enough happiness to last a lifetime and a half. I’ll always love you.”  

When we get married, we anticipate growing old and gray with our partners. Unfortunately, life sometimes has other plans.  

23. “As twins, we’ve always had such a close connection. You’ve been by my side even before we were born. The thought of having to live without you makes me feel like I’m being torn in two. This isn’t fair. I don’t want to be alone. But I promise I’ll do my best to live the life we always dreamed of for both of our sakes’.” 

Sibling relationships are special and unique. That goes double for twins. You and your twin may have a bond that transcends language, but there’s a lot of power in speaking about your love out loud. 

24. “You are so much more than my mother. You are my best friend. I know it can’t have been easy raising me as a single mom, but you never let me see the strain you were under. You worked so hard to give me a better life, and you’ve made me into the person I am today. Everything I accomplish for the rest of my life will be a part of your legacy. We may be saying goodbye for now, but I’ll always carry you with me.”  

At the end of the day, parents just want to know that they did their best for their children. At the end of your parent’s life, it’s beautiful to reassure them that they achieved that goal. 

How to Say Goodbye to Someone You Love

Some goodbyes are easier than others. You might be sad if a coworker you like is transferring to a new job, but it won't be the world's end. Saying goodbye to someone you love can be a much more painful and emotional experience. But you can also look at these goodbyes as an opportunity to tell someone just how much you love them. 

25. “It feels like it was only yesterday when the doctor placed you in my arms. Now, you’ve grown into a wonderful young man on the cusp of adulthood. I wish you could stay my little boy forever, but I know it’s time to let you go. Just remember: no matter how far you fly, you can always return to my nest.”  

Sending a child off to college can be a difficult transition. As much as we want to keep our children close, letting them live their own lives is the best thing you can do for them. Still, it’s okay to remind them that they do have a soft place to land if they ever need one.  

26. “Can miles truly separate you from friends? If you want to be with someone you love, aren’t you already there?” 

Author Richard Bach penned this thoughtful line. This quote is excellent to share with your friends when you graduate. Even though life may take you in different directions, you’ll never forget the experiences you shared. 

27. “People ask me if it’s hard to be married to someone who is constantly gone. I tell them it is hard, but not for the reasons they may think. I don’t mind raising the kids myself when you can’t be here. The reason it’s hard for me to say goodbye to you is that I’m always afraid it’s going to be the last time. Please be safe and come home when you can.” 

It feels like it’s harder than ever to provide for a family. Some people end up pursuing careers in the military or on oil rigs so that their families can have a better life. Being married to someone in a career that requires a lot of travel means you have to say many goodbyes. Make every single one count. 

28. “Walking you down the aisle today is bittersweet. I know you’ve already been living on your own for a while, but it really puts it into perspective that you’re all grown up now. When I look at you, I can’t help but see you at every age you’ve ever been. Now though, you get to write your own future.”   

When your child gets married, they are, in essence, creating their own new family. That can be hard for parents to process. But even if you’re grappling with complex emotions, it’s important to show your support. 

Saying Goodbye to a Dying Loved One 

We will all have to say goodbye to a loved one at some point in our lives. The way we say goodbye will depend on our relationship with the person. If your father is a jokester, infuse your goodbye with humor.

If you and your grandmother have a shared love of music, make a playlist of special goodbye songs. Whatever you decide to do, make sure it’s personalized and from the heart. Everything else will follow from there. 

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