The Art of Goodbyes

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.

Categories: Boundaries, Relationships, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “The Art of Goodbyes

  1. Reblogged this on kenkennardblog.

  2. Thank you for another thought provoking post. I hate good-byes. Partially, (or wholly) because I had to say the long “goodbye” to my Father when I was 5, and to my Mother when I was 16. Both took their own lives. As did both my Grandfathers.
    I was moved around so much in my childhood and since, that goodbyes have become a way of life. They always hurt. But now I prepare for my own final goodbye to my family , friends and the world. I accept change and let people into and out of my life. Clinging to people just causes so much pain. I don’t enjoy parting, but it’s strange how people come and go, and return! Only last week someone contacted me whom I hadn’t seen for 48 years and we had lunch together and it was as though we’d never been apart. The wonders of the internet!
    As with so many things now, I find that acceptance of what is to be, a great solace.
    All the best,
    Ken.

  3. Karen I’ve read this in the past, and today I re-read it and it hit me a little differently. I think this time reading it I have learned I haven’t been able to say goodbye in a way that was healing, all goodbyes hurt. But to really have closure I agree you need to say what you feel and really feel it to move past the goodbye part.

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