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 plenty of relief and excitement thrown in the mix as well, so I really felt both 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. Today’s thoughts are about leaving people and places well. Tomorrow’s will focus more on looking after yourself and handling the feelings and emotions that goodbyes bring.
- 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) helps some people with that.
- Take photos of your home, school/office and other daily haunts before you leave. I mean, really, go around and take photos (or even make a little movie) of the little things. Your bedside table, your desk, the window you stare out everyday, where you keep your teddy, your bed, your comfy chair that you always make phone calls from when the late afternoon light is washing over 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. If you can afford it, of course. What I’m saying is, 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! Tell the people you are leaving behind what you need from them to mark the departure and separation. 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…so you get to say goodbye.
- 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 and end well, too. Try to give room for this if you can.
- Take time to say goodbye to the people you have been responsible for, if that applies. Pray to leave them in God’s hands. Pray for the things you have been responsible for, and let go of the fact that you can’t control what happens there any more. Remember that the same God who called you to that area of responsibility is still there.
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 this transition.
Image by Pixabay User skeeze