I came across an email today that I had written to a friend who was rapidly and incredulously approaching the hard stop of a goodbye. She was soon to leave a place that had been very significant to her and she didn’t know when she’d be back.
I’ve done a lot of goodbyes in my life, and for me it’s mostly been heartbreaking, though sometimes there has been relief or excitement thrown in the mix as well, I really felt for her and understood her incredulity and her pain.
A goodbye is, to me at least, never easy, but I have learned some things that have helped me to leave well and prepare the ground for closure. I shared them with her, and today I’m sharing some of them with you.
  • Spend some time thinking of places that have been special or significant to you during your time and take the time to re-visit those places. Take photos, and “say goodbye” to the place. It can be a bit of a shock to suddenly lose your day-to-day reality in a day (which, thanks to planes is how fast it happens nowadays; back in the day there was the “limbo” of ships to process the transition) but preparing mentally by saying goodbye to things that seem silly (the crazy grocery store, the police check-points, the place you went on retreat, your home, your church) can sometimes help with that.
  • Take photos of your home, school/office and other daily haunts before you leave. Include the little things: your bedside table, your desk, the window you stare out everyday, your bed, your comfy chair that you always make phone calls from when the late afternoon light is washing over it. Take a few minutes (or hours) to really see the little everyday things that you don’t normally consciously notice but will soon miss.
  • If you can afford it, spend the money and the time to take some momentos back with you that remind you of the people and place you are saying goodbye to. It’s never convenient, but it can be of value – those things become part of the thread that makes your narrative continuous from one home to another.
  • Take the time to tell the key people in your life there what you appreciate about them and how they have affected your life. If you don’t have time to do that before you leave, you can do it from the new place, but if you do have time to do it before you leave, even better.
  • If you have any broken or unresolved relational issues, think about whether there is a way to leave on a resolved, forgiven, positive or even reconciled note. Here’s how to do that (and here and here are posts that address important misconceptions about forgiveness).
  • Think about how you imagine the departure, and what you think you might need from the people you are leaving behind. Then, tell them! Yes, tell them! If it would help, ask for a goodbye party, or ask them not to have a goodbye party. Ask people to see you off in some way – maybe a whole group take you to the airport, or you have a group round for drinks before you leave, or they come over and help you pack. Do make time to actually say goodbye, even though it’s awkward and painful.
  • Remember that the people you are leaving are saying goodbye too. They have their own mix of emotions and grief, and they may feel they need something from you to mark the separation too. Try to give room for this if you can.
  • Take time to say goodbye to the people and tasks you have been responsible for, if that applies. Pray for them, if appropriate. Choose to let go of the fact that you can’t control what happens there any more. Remember that you are part of the story, but you were never the whole story.
I hope these thoughts are helpful in thinking about facing change intentionally and well. Stay tuned for more on this topic tomorrow.
Dear friends who are facing a goodbye – my heart goes out to you. May God be with you as you make your transition.
Image by Pixabay User skeeze