Goodbyes can be tricky. So much so that some people avoid them entirely. I believe there is an art to saying goodbye. It involves understanding what you are genuinely feeling, speaking your emotion to the person and being ok with any awkwardness that might be present.
I said goodbye to our exchange student yesterday. He spent the last 10 months living with us, learning about American culture, attending high school, teaching us about his life in Norway, and finding his way into our hearts. It wasn’t always easy. We experienced the ups and downs of real relationships. We had arguments, there were tears, frustration, irritation, laughter, understanding and love. When it came time to send him home, I felt a heavy sadness in my heart and I cried.
When we spend significant time with another person it is natural to feel sadness when we part ways. Out of my sadness and not knowing exactly what to say, I wanted to say things like, “We’ll see you in Norway,” but didn’t. I said very little other than, “It’s hard to say goodbye to you after spending 10 months together.” I usually try to fill the uneasy moments in a good bye with a promise of seeing each other soon. I wanted to say that but for one of the first times in my life I didn’t. It isn’t that I don’t hope to visit him in Norway, it’s just not on the horizon. I let my goodbye sit there.
I learned about healthier goodbyes when the Counselor Training Program with John Townsend ended in March. Dr. Townsend coached us on how to say goodbye and let it sit without the avoid-the-uncomfortableness filler words. It was the first time I gave goodbyes any thought. I like this concept of being healthy even with a goodbye.