5 Healing Phrases to Express to the Dying

 Sitting alone in the desert mountains preparing to die….

ghostdanceEven after four days of intense initiation at base camp, I may not have have been ready to sit on the side of a mountain alone for five days, with only sleeping bag and water, and prepare to die.

But I’d bought the ticket for this twelve-day wilderness experience and shown up with good intentions. I prepared to die to everything and everybody in my life.

What is dying? Dying is the ultimate agent of transformation, but in modern culture we lack the rituals and meaningful rites of passage ceremonies to help us die with conscious awareness and fearless courage. Indigenous cultures offered death and dying rituals to their people, but today we have no customs to “practice” dying. We’d much prefer not think or talk about death at all.

The intense hunger brought on by fasting was not the hard part of the ordeal for me, and neither was being totally alone. I felt safe sleeping out under the stars. The Inyo Mountains (Paiute word for dwelling Place of a Great Spirit) are east of the Sierras and share a border with Death Valley; the weather can be brutally hot by day and freezing at night. Rattlesnakes and scorpions abound, and the occasional bear or mountain lion roam. At a 7000 foot elevation and with a rugged terrain of rocks, junipers and pinions, these desert mountains are often hit with sudden lightening storms which is the biggest danger of all.

The aloneness, hunger, and physical risk were not so tough, but what I found formidable was this fear-provoking question; “What if nothing happens for me?” In other words, what if I return from the vision fast the same old person: afraid to live and afraid to die? (What DID happen for me on the mountain is grounds for another blog post.)

The Death Lodge. I was given instructions by the guides beforehand as to the steps to follow during each of the five days fasting alone, one of which was to build a death lodge. Day Two of the fast was to be spent sitting within this sacred circle that I constructed out of rocks, sticks, leaves and feathers: a place to review one’s life and where loved ones could come and say goodbye.

The guides suggested that with each important person in our life, we use these parting words from the ho’oponopono tradition in Polynesian cultures (and some hospice programs) to say farewell:

Please forgive me
I forgive you
I love you
Thank you

The act of saying goodbye to family and friends took me many hours. With each individual I love or have ever loved, I said the words aloud to each and imagined him or her offering the words back to me in my symbolic rite of passage of death.

There’s little one can offer the dying except for our loving presence. Words fail us because of our own conditioned fear of death.

These five phrases are both healing and freeing. I recommend you commit them to memory so you can be prepared to use them when someone you love is ready to cross over. The words are best expressed aloud, but the dying individual need not be conscious to hear them. I’ve had the privilege of using these powerful phrases only twice in real life since being introduced to them, but I know the words ease wounded hearts and generate forgiveness between two people when one of the two is near death.

Now I say these words to you: please forgive me, I forgive you, I love you, thank you. Goodbye.

But it’s not really goodbye–I’ll be back real soon.


  1. Heather, I love you. Don’t leave yet though. please.

    • Heather says:

      Not to worry, Chuck. I’ll be around awhile to drive you nuts and when I’m gone, I still be doing the same thing in spirit! Love and hugs.

  2. Thank you , Heather.

  3. I sat quietly this morning and spoke these words to Tate.
    And in my heart I know that he spoke
    them back to me from heaven. I know it’s not
    the same as sharing them with someone
    who is transitioning but I feel a sense of peace
    even still. I think maybe these words can
    can also be spoken when letting someone
    go even while they continue to walk with
    us on earth. Something like a death of a relationship or
    perceived relationship. Anyway, thank you so much for this
    beautiful post, Heather. Much, much love
    and honor from my heart to yours.
    PS: Can’t wait for your Vision Quest post!

    • Heather says:

      Yes, use the phrases in any kind of relationship, even when you’re not saying goodbye.

      Thank YOU, Kellie for being an inspiration to me. H.

  4. Can’t wait to hear about your experience Heather…want to come talk to you soon. So much going on – need your presence in my life. Much love – M

  5. Danielle says:

    WOW, i remember taking yoga with you years ago and ill never forget you sharing a similar voyage back then, i always thought of the courage you had and when i spoke of you to introduce as my yoga teacher i shared that experience you so generously shared with us..i love you for all you are..happy you were born..thank you for being in my life..NAMASTE

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