Yesterday I wrote a post about leaving well when you are faced with saying goodbye to a place, job or phase of your life that you have loved. Today’s thoughts are focused on looking after yourself during a transition. If you’re in transition, I hope these thoughts help you navigate it. Transitions are tough; go easy on yourself!

  • Let yourself feel whatever feelings come up and don’t try to suppress the ones that don’t make sense. You may have a variety of positive and negative feelings – that’s normal and totally ok. It’s easy for the chaos of packing, sorting, planning and administration to overrun the feelings but both are equally important. The same holds for unpacking! I can’t tell you the number of times I have sat down for a cry or vent or chat surrounded by boxes/backpacks/piles of random stuff – but there’s nothing wrong with it. Try to give yourself enough time for that (if you can).
  • Don’t feel you are ‘wasting’ your time if you are doing packing, sorting and admin instead of spending quality time with the people you are leaving. This one is always hard for me, but it really is part of the process. Your brain and heart need time, and I think need something tangible, to process what is happening. The pragmatism and practicalities of packing and sorting can actually be helpful. Similarly, don’t feel bad if you need some time alone, even though friends want to see you for a series of ‘lasts.’ It’s great to schedule time with friends you’re leaving, but giving yourself time alone is good too.
  • At some point, probably in transit or in the new place, take time to journal about the place you’ve said goodbye to, the experiences you had there, the people you met, how you were changed, and how you felt about saying goodbye. What was awful? What was amazing? Who do you think you will miss? What dreams were fulfilled? What dreams were unfulfilled? What burdens did you carry? What ways did you change? In what ways are you disappointed?
  • Are there ways that you can consciously let go of the burdens that you are carrying from one place as you enter the next? You may need to hear that you are released from here in order to feel able to engage there. For example, I worked somewhere once with some potentially high risk situations among young people. Aaron and I were the managers, and I realised after I left that while I was there I was always carrying the burden of “What if a kid gets killed on our watch?” After we left it took me AGES to not feel that burden any more. One thing I did to help with that process was to write out a list of all the burdens that I felt that we had been carrying in that role, and read through them, consciously letting go of them. I found it surprisingly hard, and it took time, but it was important work.
  • I like to scrapbook experiences as a way of processing, though that is a more long-term project and isn’t necessarily right for everyone. It can be helpful to bring back even just a little box of photos/notes/tickets/hilarious moments/other momentos as a way of carrying that bit of your world/heart/life experience with you. Making a physical photo album to share with people can be really helpful too.
  • If possible, give yourself some time and space after the goodbye, before the next hello. So often we take off with grief and packed bags just to land a few hours later bang in the middle of a set of demands – bags to unpack, responsibilities to take on, relationships to build or reconnect into, a new culture to navigate, joys and fears to face. Whether the new place is as familiar as the back of your hand or brand spankin’ new, I think we still need some transition time. If you can carve that out in the new space before the next set of demands and relationships hits you, then great, but in my experience, that rarely works (“When do you land? We’ll be at the airport! You’re staying with us right?!“). We’ve found it works better to give ourselves some in-between space in an in-between land. This may literally be a transit country where the aeroplane stops, we get off, spend a night or two in a hotel, and then take the onward flight, or it may be taking a week’s annual leave following an old job, before starting at a new one. Whatever it is, give yourself some space.
  • Sometimes (more often than we tend to think), it’s worth going to see a counsellor or a listener in the new place to process some of what you faced in the last place. The things you need to process feel normal when you’re in them and irrelevant when you’re out of them, but a counsellor can help us not to carry it all around with us as excess baggage.
  • Emotions aren’t good or bad. You may be deeply grieving or you may be secretly relieved to be leaving. Allow a little space and try not to judge. Give yourself time to feel.
  • Finally, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get time to do any of the above! Go gently with yourself. Your mind, body, spirit and soul are going through a lot. Be kind.
As hard as it is to face a goodbye in advance, it’s easier (and healthier) to do than dealing with the fall out of approaching a big goodbye in denial and then suddenly crashing into that wall. I hope these ideas help with the transition, but I recognise that none of them are able to take away the pain if you are facing a difficult goodbye right now.
Image from my personal collection: the most beautiful airstrip in the world ain’t gonna stop that plane taking off.