Time to Say Goodbye

Some goodbyes are fast and unexpected; our hearts literally feel like they have been cracked open from the pain. We have little time to prepare ourselves, or even consider how life in the future might look, because we simply did not see the winds of change blowing in the direction they decided to go. Yet this emotional tornado leaves a wake of destruction, that in some cases, may never be rebuilt.

Then there are those slow goodbyes; much like the painful bandaid that takes each tiny hair on the arm with it, piece by piece and bit by bit, until a red nasty raw section of flesh is left exposed. Heart shattering all the same, but in slow motion, dragging for weeks, months or even years; taking bits of our souls along the way.

Yet, goodbyes are a way of life. People we love will come and go regardless, and no person is guaranteed to be with us forever. Even though we rationally know that we come into this world alone, and will exit alone, we still feel a sense of shock when these goodbyes occur.

My sister Tammy said it was often a discussion at her Compassionate Friends Meetings between parents who had lost children, whether is was more painful to have a shocking and abrupt death of a child, or to know that it was coming. Both had their pros and cons, but the result being the same, the tragic loss of a child, so a consensus was never really agreed upon. For who wants to receive a late night call saying a child has been killed, or have to watch the pain and suffering they experience through a long illness? Both are horrific, and still “goodbyes.”

I have been watching the slow demise of my beautiful mother for years. Yesterday, I walked into her room in the early morning, only to find her looking around in sheer confusion, not remembering why she was sitting there, or what she was supposed to do upon waking up in the morning. The words no longer forming in her mind, and the thoughts jumping in a jumble of disconnects around her mind. I see her fear, anger and frustration, and it truly hurts my heart. She finally looked at me pleadingly and said, “just tell me what I am supposed to do!” I proceeded by reminding her that she uses a walker, pointing it out next to her because she didn’t know what it was, and explained that she uses it to walk to the bathroom so she can start her morning ritual. Once she slowly made her way to the bathroom, I tried, as unobtrusively as possible, to pop in and out of the bathroom to make sure that she was properly combing her hair, washing her face, and putting toothpaste (and not hand soap as she has done in the past) on the toothbrush. She is slipping quickly, and some days I realize my mother is already long gone. I only wish this gentle woman in front of me to have her dignity, not feel shame for her cognitive failings, and to be as safe and comfortable as possible, but she has become a child again who no longer knows how to do simple tasks.

Even in life when we initiate the goodbye, like in a divorce, ending a longtime friendship, or cutting off a family member, knowing that although we may still love these individuals, that doesn’t mean they are good for our well being. Sometimes intentionally saying goodbye to those we love is a pure and necessary expression of self love. It is said that “People come into our life for a reason, a season or a lifetime,” but that lifetime may not be OUR lifetime.

However, the beautiful part about the human condition is that the bad memories tend to fade, leaving those happier times in a clearer light. Perhaps as we approach our “goodbyes” we need to remember that time has a way of serving as a healing balm. It doesn’t always take away the pain, but rather dulls it. Seeing the lessons and the joy these relationships brought us, allow us to find gratitude, even when it is time to say goodbye.


  1. Corrina on February 12, 2023 at 12:57 pm

    Goodbye’s are such a painful part of life. But it helps to remember that they are only painful because we have lived and loved. ❤️
    Thank you for this beautiful message.

  2. Kimberley Parsell Lewis on February 12, 2023 at 2:03 pm

    Hugs my friend. They may not remember the face but they never forget the love. Prayers for your journey.

  3. Adrienne on February 12, 2023 at 3:01 pm

    Beautifully said Susan. Sending you love during this difficult time of grieving.

  4. Lizzie Martell on February 12, 2023 at 3:13 pm

    So so so much love and empathy for this Susan. 💛 Goodbyes are so hard. Moving forward is hard. But life never stands still and new good things come from goodbyes too. Like remembering why they are so hard, because true love lives there. X

  5. Cynthia v on February 12, 2023 at 5:02 pm

    Beautifully said. This truly resonated with me as I’m caring for my grandpa who has dementia. I understand this on such a deep level ❤️ thank you for sharing. Sending you love & prayers 💕

  6. Joanne (JT) on February 12, 2023 at 9:15 pm

    Sending you, your mom, and family much love, Susan. I feel for you.
    We also went through a long goodby with my mom, who had dementia and ultimately transitioned from COVID in May 2020, at the age of 95 . As she declined steeply during the final years , I gradually relied more and more on just communicating the enduring love and compassion, and less on noticing the progressive cognitive and physical changes. On my visits, I began singing more to her, and eventually even held my conversations to her by singing my words. The music , more than spoken words, seemed to be more receptive by her changing brain. Once when she had pain in her shoulder, I hovered my hand over it, and although she was almost 100% non-verbal at that point, she looked up at me and said, “Oh wow!” I said to myself, “You just made my life.” I believe she continued to feel loving energy throughout, even when COVID prevented physical visits. I know your strong loving energy is always felt and greatly appreciated by your beautiful mom. Wishing you a peaceful heart, dear friend.

  7. Heather on February 13, 2023 at 6:23 am

    All my love Susan.

  8. Rosemary Voltmann on February 13, 2023 at 1:36 pm

    What a beautiful passage to read. And so eloquent.
    Thank you.

  9. Pat Wheeler on February 19, 2023 at 1:14 pm

    So beautifully said. Yes, we had many conversations at Compassionate Friends regarding losing our child unexpectedly and through a longer time. Both were unbelievably painful. I lost my son in a tragic accident and often thought if I had only had the time for goodbyes etc. But then so many parents talking about watching their child fade was no easier. I’m so sad about your mom. I loved her so. My mom is in a similar situation and it’s so hard to go visit not knowing if they will know you that day or if they will say your name when you get there. I appreciate your connection to our loved ones. Please give your mom a hug and tell Tammy I said hello and I love my dear Compassionate Friend!!

  10. barbra horowitz on February 19, 2023 at 5:00 pm

    Sending you reiki healing energy for you, and your mom! SS💌💌

  11. Tara B. on February 19, 2023 at 5:25 pm

    I hate that this is written upon your own heartbreak but, this is such a beautiful message for all of us. Thank you and sending you and your family so much love and energetic support.

  12. Lorraine Sola on February 19, 2023 at 6:30 pm

    Thank you for this Susan♥️

  13. Sirena Pendragon on February 19, 2023 at 7:17 pm

    My mother suffered from dementia too, but she was also very psychotic and angry. It was a relief once she let go. Our good bye was when she visited me in my dreams, where she was much more able to communicate without the physical constraints. It was in this space where we were able to truly say goodbye, beyond her actual death. So any truth left unsaid, can finally come out. Peace and Blessings

  14. Alex Kate on February 20, 2023 at 3:51 pm

    I’m hugging you in my heart, Susan. Beautiful words. I can feel your love toward your mom while reading.