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  • Writer's picture Gabrielle Elise Jimenez

I didn't get a chance to say goodbye

Updated: Jun 20

During the height of COVID when families were not allowed to sit at the bedside of someone who was dying, I said their goodbyes for them. There were so many people who could not get a flight home or were not allowed in a facility or hospital despite there being someone they love hours away from dying. I can’t tell you how many phones I held up to the ears of the people who would otherwise be dying alone, so that the people who love them could say goodbye. As some of you know, that is not the kind of goodbye that gives you peace in your heart.

Not being able to say goodbye adds to the weight of the grieving process, and it leaves you with a sense of unfinished business, as well as guilt, anger, and regret. While I try hard to understand the rationale behind not allowing people to be at the bedside during that time, I truly feel that we did not do that right. I can’t help but think they could have been allowed to dress head-to-toe in PPE just like I was, to at the very least say one last “I love you” and “goodbye.”

This also happens when there is a tragic accident, and no one is prepared. All who are left behind can't help but think of the last words they said to their person... or the last words they did not have a chance to say. 

Death is final. There are no do-overs. You don’t get a second chance to change the way you handled things, what you might have said or didn’t say, or to make sure they took with them just how truly loved they are and always will be. It is in these moments when we wish so badly that we could turn back time. It is very hard to navigate your grief when it is wrapped tightly with so many things you regret.


Because I too have been in this situation a few times, I started doing a candle lighting ritual to help me say goodbye or send a message to someone who died that left me feeling unsettled, angry, and sad. I have also shared this ritual with others who did not have a chance to say goodbye or still have so much more they want to say.


I want to share this ritual with you, hoping that it might help you make peace with your feelings, and bring you some comfort. You will need a candle and a lighter. I always use the same candle for each ritual I do, as I believe that each time I light the candle for a new ritual, it resends the message from the ritual before.

Before lighting the candle, think of the person you are honoring. See their face, their smile, and if possible, revisit one of your last memories with them.

Light the candle.

Say out loud everything you want to say. This is an opportunity to share your feelings, as though they are standing in front of you at that moment ready to take all of your words with them. This is a chance to offer an apology or forgiveness, for them to hear how much you miss and love them, and to say goodbye, especially if you never had that chance.

Sit with the candle for as long as you need. Sometimes I use this opportunity as a chance to have a conversation, share a story, talk about my day, and feel that them with me.

When you are done, blow the candle out and watch the smoke until it is gone, which is when you know they have received all of your words.


This is what I do often, because I still feel unsettled and sad, and I have so much more I want to say to them. This is my private time with my feelings, and when that candle is out and the smoke has disappeared, I find comfort in knowing they received my message, and that means everything to me. This has also helped me with my grieving process. I hope it helps you with yours.


With so much love,


You might be interested in joining one of my Ritual & Ceremony classes. I do one for grief and one for forgiveness of self and others. Please visit my website for more details.



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