Saying goodbye to my parent

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How do you possibly think about saying goodbye to your mum or dad?? But if you know they are likely to die soon, you have the chance to say things you want to say and ask your mum or dad about what they want to happen after they die. 

How do you know when it’s time?

No one can tell you exactly when your parent is going to die. So, how do you prepare to say goodbye? It might seem a bit embarrassing to have big deep and meaningfuls and tell your mum or dad all your deepest secrets when they might still be around for months or years. Or you might be worried that they will think you have lost hope if you start talking about life without them.

But now, more than ever, you will both benefit by knowing how much you love each other.

Tips from other young people who’ve been through this:

Don’t let things go unsaid

It may not be easy to talk openly about your feelings, especially right now. Here are some ideas to get you started: Thank you for… I’m sorry that… I love you because … I feel proud when you … I forgive you for… I hope that… If only… What scares me the most is… A favourite memory I have is… You make me laugh when… I’ll miss you. I know that this is really hard for you too. I will be OK. I will get through this somehow. Do you have any advice for me in the future? What are your hopes and dreams for me?  

Just hang out together

If you can, make the most of the time you have with your parent, you will probably really cherish this time. Try to think of things you can still do together. You might be able to play a board game, watch a movie, read the paper or a book to them, or get them to help you with your homework.  

Make some one-on-one time

There might be lots of people around helping and wanting to spend time with your parent. But it’s okay to demand a bit of alone time with your mum or dad. You will value this time in the future.

Create memories and stories

Often when a person is dying, they like to reflect on their past and think of their achievements so that they can see that their life has been important. If your mum or dad feels up to it, you could sit down and talk about their favourite memories and look back over their life. You could also ask them to tell you about their thoughts and dreams for you and your future. You might like to record these somehow so that when those big events happen – your graduation, your wedding, having kids – you can remember the conversations you had and feel like your mum or dad is part of them. If you have the opportunity now, you might be able to start collecting things that will help to remind you of them in the future. This might be something you can do together. There are lots of ideas for collecting memories and preparing – as hard as it is – for your mum’s or dad’s death in Canteen’s free book ‘Now what? When your parent’s cancer can’t be cured which you can download or order here.

Don’t try to do it alone

This is a really tough time, and you may feel completely alone and unsure about what to do next. It can help to talk to other young people who have lost their mum or dad to cancer and find out what they did, or would have done differently. Log in to the Canteen Community. Our counsellors can give you some advice for getting through this too.

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