Saying Final Goodbyes — SWH

Updated on April 01, 2018
N.Z. asks from Los Angeles, CA
15 answers

Would you be offended if you wanted to say your final goodbyes to someone because you know they don’t have much time left, but the dying person didn’t want people coming by?

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So What Happened?

My mom is the dying person. My MIL wanted to come by and say her goodbyes. I asked my mom; she doesn’t want to see my MIL. I initially told my husband that my mom only wants to see close relatives right now so my husband talked to my MIL.

A week later my MIL came by asking if she can see my mom. I told her that she’s sleeping/in and out. She left and I later told my husband that my mom doesn’t want to see his mom at this time and asked him to let my MIL know.

But she called me over the weekend asking if it was a good time to see my mom. I told her that it’s not a good time.

My husband told me that my MIL’s feelings are hurt — that she’s taking it personally. But he understands my MIL should respect my moms wishes.


Thank you for sharing the ring theory!

Featured Answers



answers from Harrisburg on

Absolutely not. Send a card and write down what you would like to say to them.


Absolutely not. Send a card and write down what you would like to say to them.

5 moms found this helpful

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answers from Boston on

Good heavens, no. A cousin of mine didn't want to see people and, while i wanted to tell her what she meant to me, I respected that this was her time and her total right to do what she wanted. Sometimes it's just too much effort for the dying person to meet someone else's need to say things that require the dying person's attention or response, and I just couldn't press my own selfish needs on her at this most difficult time. If I had burst into tears, would it have been her "job" to console me? She was entitled to her own thoughts and quiet time of introspection.

ETA: I just read your SWH. I'm so sorry about your mom, and I suggest that you let your husband handle his mother entirely. And do discuss the ring theory and tell him he has to stop telling you that she's hurt. She also has to stop asking you to come in to see your mother - she has to talk to your husband only. You have enough on your plate. Your MIL's job is to support YOU, not the other way around. I'm sure she means well and wants to help - there will be plenty of time for that after your mother passes, and that's when your MIL can really do some good.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

I don't know if you're familiar with the ring theory.

You draw a circle, and in that circle you write the name of the person who is the center of the crisis. In this case it's the dying person.

Then you draw another circle around the first circle and write the names of the next closest people to the crisis. Maybe a spouse or parents. Then you draw another circle around the second one and write the next closest person. You continue doing so.

You basically end up with a kvetching order. The rules are that the person in the middle can say anything to anyone else. They can complain or talk about their worries. Or they can not say anything at all. Other people can say those same things, but only to people in a larger circle than the one they themselves are in.

When you talk to someone in a smaller ring than yours, your goal is to comfort them. So you say or do what brings THEM comfort. In your situation, the dying person doesn't want visitors. So you don't visit because doing so wouldn't bring them comfort and might actually cause discomfort.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Not at all. I fully agree with Diane.

That time is often reserved for immediate family and dearest friends only. Even then, it depends. Sometimes they don't want people seeing them like that, or they aren't up for visitors at all (too physically taxing). It's extremely draining and the whole part about not wanting to have to comfort others is very true. It really also depends on how strong the people are around them - if they have wonderful support then it's easier, but it's a big burden on say a wife who is clearly distraught to have entertain or look after upset visitors.

Some people find it a comfort, but for others it's just too much in the final days. It's nothing personal.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

No I wouldn't be offended.
Because my need to say goodbye is something I need to do for me and I don't need to see the person unless they want to say goodbye to me.
The whole mourning process is about saying goodbye and making your peace with the hole in your life the departed person left you with.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

No. I would hope that everyone would see that this short period of time should be all about what the person who is dying needs, and not about those who want to unburden themselves. It would make the well person feel better to have words off his or her chest, but having to do it over and over again would likely be exhausting for the person who is dying.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

No I would not be offended. Your final goodbyes are for you, not them, so find your peace in that you reached out and respect the wishes of the sick person. They may have any number of reasons to want to be left alone, from wanting people to remember them healthy to simply not having the energy to entertain well wishers. Let them be.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Nope....because I am not the person dying.
The person that is dying gets to have the final say.
I understand wanting to say your goodbye, so perhaps writing a beautiful card and leaving it at the door or with someone that is closer to them. Or with a nurse if the person is in the hospital.
I am sorry that someone you care about is so sick.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i'm not sure who you're worrying about offending. i'm guessing it's the dying person, but your wording is ambiguous.

yes, if the person who is about to leave has specifically asked for no visitors, then of course it's offensive to intrude. if there's ever a time in life to have your wishes honored, it's when you're on your way out.

pushing yourself in because YOU want to wrap it up is selfish.

ETA, ah the SWH makes it clear. i'm sorry your MIL is feeling put out, but your mom's wishes obviously come first. let your husband handle his mom. you focus on yours.

my very very best to you all in this hard situation.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I’m so sorry about your mom. I’m also sorry your MIL is making this about herself. The last thing you need is additional stress during an already incredibly difficult time.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

This is a very tough situation. I'm so sorry. I agree that letting your husband handle it is probably the best course of action. I would tell your MIL that she is welcome to write a note or a card and you guys will make sure your mother gets it. I'm not sure if your relationship with your MIL is strained or why exactly your mom doesn't want to see her. It might just be she's just exhausted and that is an okay reason for sure! But, I feel like people are being kind of harsh about your MIL. I think it's nice she wants to see her and who knows what her motivation is. They are both mothers to you two and maybe your MIL is simply trying to reach out and assure her that she'll be there for you after she's gone.

As harsh as this sounds, I do think that your husband probably needs to straight up tell his mom that she doesn't want to see her right now. I feel like if he doesn't then she's going to continue to ask to come over. Would she just show up and expect to see her? If you think it's a possibility I'd try and handle that before it happens.

Hugs. This can't be easy for you.

I feel like there's more to this question than you have here...

Did this happen to you and you got offended, but you're trying to decide if you really should be offended or you're just sad/hurt/grieving??

Or are you trying to protect a dying person and wish to ask people to stay away but don't want to hurt people's feelings?

I feel like I need all the info before I can really offer an appropriate response, but in the first situation, it's hard to say. I might be offended if I was very close to that person or was unable to see them before things got so bad that they were on their death bed. Death does things to people that are unexpected and unexplainable and things that might not have been a big deal before, often seem like big deals when someone we know or love is dying. I think it's human nature to want to say goodbye or reconcile something or get something off your chest, etc.

If someone you know is dying and you are trying to protect them then I think you have to defer to what the dying person wants. If that person has specifically said they don't want people (or a certain person) to come by then I think you should respect that. If the dying person is basically out of it all the time and doesn't really know if people are coming and going and you know that someone has a specific wish to see them, I would be more inclined to say that you should let them.

It sucks when people die. It's hard and sad and full of emotions and even if death was "expected" because of a situation or illness, you are never truly prepared to lose someone.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Haha, really...?! Are you now thinking of expressing your anger to the dying person? They can feel bad and send you "I'm Sorry" flowers...then you can swap out the note with a Sympathy card and send the flowers back to them?

I think dying is difficult enough without having to tiptoe around people who want to invade the dying person's privacy.

If you have something you feel you must say, write a note and send it either to the dying person or to their relatives to pass along the message as they see fit.

ETA: After reading your SWH, my answer still applies - you can tell your MIL that you "passed the message along" to your's not like your MIL has to worry that your mother "will never know how much she cared" or anything like that.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I think it's awful for his mom to want to see your mom. All that does is say "Hey, you're dying and I'm not, so....see ya!".

Tell him to tell his mom it's not going to happen.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I'm so sorry about your mother's impending death. Rather than giving you advice on this, I just wanted to say to please make sure to take care of yourself here. You are trying to take care of your mother, your mother-in-law, and your husband. (And everyone else who is part of your family...) And I will just bet that you aren't paying attention to yourself in all of this.

Whoever will be her executor, go talk to them and ask them what information they need. It's really important that you know certain things that perhaps only your mother can answer. If you wait until she is gone, it's so much harder. Know where all her information is - social security card, will, bank/brokerage statements, passwords to her computer, lockbox key... My mom has a friend whose sister passed without telling anyone anything, and it was a nightmare.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Your MIL is forward thinking. Maybe someday you will approach her angrily that she did not visit your mom in her dying days.

What you can do is reassure her that you understand she warns to come and that you will never hold this againt her--as it is your mom's wish.

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