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5 Tips for Traveling to Say Goodbye to a Loved One

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July 20, 2017

It’s summertime and it seems like everyone around me is preparing for some great adventure. My family is planning a trip, too, but we won’t be playing on the beach or thrill-seeking at an amusement park. Instead, we will be saying goodbye to someone we all love dearly: my grandmother.

She’s 90 years old and, as many people point out, she’s had a long, incredible life. Despite the truth of those words, it doesn’t make it easier to say goodbye. At least, not for me. So, while I’d love to kick back and enjoymy first summer without a newborn in three years, I’ll be packing up my six children for a cross-country trek.

I don’t normally write such personal articles but I realized that, if I was going to tackle this topic, speaking in the third-person just won’t cut it. I’m sure many of you have or will embark on a similarly sad journey, so it’s a topic worth discussing. Here are my five tips for saying goodbye to a loved one.

Let the Tears Flow

We usually try to hide our feelings, especially the painful ones. No one ever wants to be a wet, sobbing mess, but there are times when you need to just let it out.

If you are preparing to bid farewell to a loved one, no matter what their age, no matter how long they’ve lived, no matter how strained your relationship, it’s okay to cry. You might find that once you start, the floodgates will open and, for a few moments, you might be inconsolable. That’s okay too. Honor and allow your feelings. All of them. You’ll feel better afterwards. 

Don’t Hold Back

You might have something you’ve always wanted to ask your loved one, but have been afraid to ask. Maybe you’ve wanted to express gratitude or make a confession, but have never found the right time. You may also just want to hear your favorite stories again, one last time.

Now is the time to speak honestly (unless, of course, you have something to say that would cause unnecessary pain). This might be your last chance to get the closure or answers you need and you don’t want to look back with regret.

Capture the Memories

Our society is obsessed with taking pictures and sharing every single mundane minute of our day. Still, if there is one moment worth capturing, it’s a final visit with someone you cherish.

Recently a friend of mine lost her aunt. Before her passing, her big, French-Italian family gathered to sing songs and celebrate her aunt’s life. The videos were shared online and made local newspapers, serving as a reminder that we can still find beauty in the saddest of moments.  

If I’m lucky enough to hear my grandmother tell a tale from my childhood during our visit, I’ll be sure to get it on video so I can listen to it again whenever I miss her.

Live in the Moment

While you definitely want to take pictures and video, you should also know when to put the camera down and just enjoy the moment. You want to be present, attentive, and not distracted during such an important visit.

Pay attention to the little things that you have taken for granted. Listen to your loved one’s voice, look into their eyes when you are talking to him or her, and let life slow down for a little while. There are people who don’t get the opportunity to say goodbye, so make the most of your time together.

Leave with Love

I adore my grandmother, but I know that everyone’s relationships are not as uncomplicated as ours. You may be saying goodbye to someone for whom you feel mixed emotions. If that’s the case, try not to dwell on the negativity. Don’t argue. If this is impossible, consider saying goodbye from a distance. If your last encounter with someone is tense or hateful, you’ll likely always regret it. Instead, honor the journey and relationship, focus on the good, and spend time together with as much love and positivity as you can muster. Then, say goodbye one last time.

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