Questions: “Did they know I loved them?” When you didn’t get the chance to say ‘I love you’ before your mum or dad died.

Questions I get asked: “Did they know I loved them?” When you didn’t get the chance to say ‘I love you’ before your mum or dad died.

If you have done much reading on death and dying you’ll find lots of references to a ‘good death’.  Usually this means when someone is very unwell, is expected to die, and is often able to return home to be in the comfort of their own surroundings.  They have a few days/weeks to reflect on their life, spend time with the people who really matter and -for them and their family/friends – have the opportunity to say everything they might like to say before passing away.

But it doesn’t always work that way, does it?  If you have no warning then you have no opportunity to have these moments, and to say goodbye, and to tell them that you love them, or have them tell you that they love you.  Not if they have an accident, or a massive stroke, or a sudden fatal and unexpected heart attack….like the father of the man who asked me this question.

His dad died very suddenly a few months ago of a heart attack. He had shown no signs of ill-health and there had been so diagnosed heart issues.  He hadn’t complained of any chest pains.  He was simply standing up one minute and then lying down the next.  His son was understandably very upset over the loss of his father, but the thing that was most upsetting him when he spoke to me, that was really breaking his heart, was the realisation that he hadn’t told his father that he loved him for a very, very long time.  He feared that his dad didn’t know that he did.

So I simply asked him whether his dad loved him. He said ‘yes’. I asked him if he was sure. He said ‘of course he did’.  I asked when was the last time his dad had said he loved him….and he couldn’t answer……He realised that he just knew.  Of course he did.  Even though his dad hadn’t said the words in a long time. In the same way that his dad knew he was loved by his son.  Of course he did.

Now this could be a lesson to make sure you tell the people you love that you do love them…because most of us never know which day will be the last day that we will be able to.  But life doesn’t always work like that. Sometimes you might have had a fight before they died, or not talked for months, or not seen them in years, or not told them you loved them in a long time.  But they know you do.  Deep down they do. Families aren’t like spouses you can divorce or friends you can ‘split up with’. It’s kindof a thing you’re stuck with – like it or (sometimes) not, you love your family and they love you.  Even the times you said you hated them and never asked to be born to them and wished that Jane’s parents were yours instead (hands up if this was you. I know I’m not the only one here that used to be a teenager!)….they still knew you loved them.  Even if you said you didn’t.

You love your parents.  And they love you.  I know there are some terrible things that go on in this world and some of them are what parents do to their children and some of them are what children do to their parents….but no matter what I hear or see I will never be convinced that there is a parent that, at the very heart of it, doesn’t have love for their child, nor a child that doesn’t have love for their parent.  And no matter what has happened, what they have told us, what we have told them or ourselves, deep down they know it and so do we.

Now it might be nice idea to have the opportunity for one of these ‘good death’ scenarios but that isn’t what all of us or our parents are destined for.  And I’ve seen many a client figure out that what they thought was a ‘bad death’ was actually a ‘good death’ for their parent.

Whether you said the words or not, they knew they were loved by you.  No matter what you said, did, thought, or where you were……they knew they were loved by you.  Of course they did.



About Kristie West

I'm a Grief Specialist and I help adults who have lost a parent. I am known for positively changing people's experience of the loss of a parent in less than 4 hours.
Gallery | This entry was posted in Loss of a parent, Questions I get asked, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Questions: “Did they know I loved them?” When you didn’t get the chance to say ‘I love you’ before your mum or dad died.

  1. Mike Stephens says:

    Great point Kristie, and phrased beautifully. As a son, I rarely if ever told my dad that I loved him. And as a father, my dad rarely said he loved me. Did we both know it? Absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt! Our actions proved it. This is not to say it’s wrong to tell each other you love them, but not saying it doesn’t mean it’s not so. Thank you for pointing this out!

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