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.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- 5 Quick Tips for Saying Goodbye
- Funny Ways to Say Goodbye
- Heartfelt Ways to Say Goodbye
- Ways to Say Goodbye in Different Languages
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.
5 Quick Tips for Saying Goodbye
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
12 Ways to Say 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.