A Ritual for Saying Good-Bye

Good-bye is a contraction from Old English for “God Be with You.” A ritual for saying good-bye, from David Feinstein and Peg Elliott Mayo’s book, Rituals for Living and Dying, is outlined below.

But know first that grief can’t be rushed. Mourning is a way of honoring the person and the love that has been shared while also coming to accept the loss, acknowledge the pain, adjust to a world in which you can no longer see or touch the person, and reinvest in the reality of a new life. It takes as much time as your soul requires.

A time does come, however, where invoking the person’s spirit and very consciously saying good-bye can be a powerful step for appreciating what you have shared and moving on. You make the person present in your imagination, place them in an “empty chair” that faces you, and consciously and very deliberately work through four stages associated with, in Peg’s words, “the final phase of transmuting grief to creativity”:

First, we express the resentment and anger associated with the loss.

Second, we dredge our memories and recall the person we’ve lost and our associations about the person. Making a long list of “I remembers” is very useful and often primes the pump for the last two stages.

Third, we do well to express our appreciations. Speaking or listing these brings balance and gives a sense of legacy from our absent loved one.

Finally, and with much resolution, we give a benediction and say good-bye. 

This process may require several sittings over a period of time before it feels complete. Done earnestly and deliberately – and ideally in the presence of another person or two who care about you – this ritual can be an extremely powerful step in easing your soul as you say good-bye.