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Oprah’s advice on saying goodbye to our loved ones is truly comforting

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Susan Devaney
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Oprah Winfrey views everything as a learning experience – including her mother’s recent death. 

For many of us, when faced with one of life’s difficult moments we internally ask ourselves: what would Oprah Winfrey do?

As a super successful one-woman brand, she’s achieved a lot while having faced some serious obstacles. To name but a few: she grew up in rural poverty in America, she lost several siblings at a young age and she was sexually abused as a child.

Despite all this, she went on to create The Oprah Winfrey Show – one of the most successful programmes in TV history, running for 25 years, pulling in such high ratings and awards to the point where Winfrey won so many Emmys that she opted to stop submitting herself for consideration.

In short: she’s incredible.

Which is why, it comes as no surprise, that while she’s been mourning the recent death of her mother Vernita Lee, Winfrey has viewed the loss “as a teaching, learning, experience”. And she wants to share what she has recently learned with others. 

“I said, ‘I don’t know if you’re going to make it. Do you think you’re going to make it?’ She said, ‘I don’t think I am.’ I had a conversation with her about what that felt like, what it felt like to be near the end,” the talk-show host told People.

“I started telling all the people who cared about her that, ‘She knows it’s the end, so, if you want to say goodbye, you should come and say goodbye.’”

Many people made their way to say final goodbyes, something that Winfrey views as a special moment.

“I said to her, ‘What a wonderful thing to be able to say goodbye,’ because she’s completely coherent and perfectly understanding everything,” Winfrey recalled.

Admitting that she struggled to find the right words to day to her mother, Winfrey says a voice told her to play music instead. Winfrey even managed to get gospel singer Wintley Phipps to sing to her mother over FaceTime. 

“What I said was, ‘Thank you. Thank you, because I know it’s been hard for you. It was hard for you as a young girl having a baby, in Mississippi. No education. No training. No skills. Seventeen, you get pregnant with this baby. Lots of people would have told you to give that baby away. Lots of people would’ve told you to abort that baby. You didn’t do that,” Winfrey recalled, finding the right words before her mother passed away on Thanksgiving. “I know that was hard. I want you to know that no matter what, I know that you always did the best you knew how to do. And look how it turned out.’”

She continued: “I would say to anybody — and if you live long enough, everybody goes through it — say the things that you need to say while the people are still alive, so that you are not one of those people living with regret about what you would’ve, should’ve, could’ve said,” she explained. 

“I feel complete. I feel really, really moved by all the people who’ve reached out to me. I got a really lovely note, just yesterday, from Jimmy Fallon (whose mother Gloria died in 2017) saying, ‘My mom’s up there, too, so if your mom has a party, tell her to call my mom.’ I feel like it was as sacred and as blessed as a passing can be.”

Images: Getty / Instagram  

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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for Stylist.co.uk, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.

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