Honoring the Goodbye

Oh the excuses we tell ourselves for why it is not important to say goodbye to people, places, situations. These excuses may sound something like “I don’t do goodbyes”; “I have a lot to do before I leave, I don’t have time”; “I can say goodbye without seeing him/her, we’ll see each other again”. Or perhaps we avoid the goodbye all together out of anger or hurt feelings. We might move on and complete avoid the person/situation by ghosting.

During that past few months, the topic of “goodbye” has been on my mind and in my heart. I said goodbye to a city and house I called home. I said goodbye to friends, colleagues and clients. Goodbyes look and feel different in various contexts but the overall themes and feelings are similar. It is uncomfortable and difficult. It provokes vulnerability. It drudges up painful feelings from past relationships and experiences with endings, like grief and loss. Endings which we have experienced and that were outside of our control, as in death or a break up with a romantic partner can be shaken up yet again even if we say goodbye intentionally and with an advanced plan.

Relationships such as those with clients in the therapy room are an arranged ending with time to process the end and plan for the future. We identify the hardships and hurdles the client has overcome, along with themes which have emerged over time. The client’s strengths are recalled and by doing this we bring value to the therapeutic relationship and the time the client has invested in their personal growth. Other goodbyes as with friends are more fluid and dynamic, as the frequency of future contact may change but connection may remain. There are also good byes to people you may never see or talk to again. Leaving a city to move to another place involves closing a chapter in life. It denotes forward movement and growth out of comfort and familiarity into the unknown and uncertainty. It has more of an evolutionary feel.

So …..

  • Why is closure healthy and necessary?
  • Why should we honor it?
  • Why take the time to have proper closure?

Saying goodbye offers an opportunity to tell the person how much you care about them, what they have meant to you and what you will miss about them {INSERT VULNERABILITY}. This intentional gesture communicates honor, respect, love, and it values connection (what we are deprived of). It shows the other person that they matter to you and that they have left an imprint in your life. You might say it is a bit of a celebration. Two people have shared in some type of exchange (formal, informal, deep, or shallow) in each other’s unique life journey. It provides a full circle to the relationship.

Properly saying goodbye does not give a pass to skip over the difficult feelings (awkward, confusing, sad, guilt…). A formal goodbye will still have all of these feelings PLUS it respects sharing these feelings between two people. Feelings get expressed and released through communicating. You do not carry them alone. Resolution of feelings begins to happen. The discomfort of facing these emotions WILL produce growth and you will feel better than if you avoided and dismissed the opportunity. You know this instinctively…so trust that!

I’ve met people so fearful of moving on in life that they hang on too long- be it in a friend or romantic relationship or a miserable workplace environment. Imagine if we were more comfortable with appropriately saying goodbye. What new opportunities would open up? I’m not suggesting it is easy or that we should practice fleeing people and places in search of the next best thing. But I am implying that when we avoid saying goodbye we lose an opportunity to connect with our instinctual knowing when it nudges us to leave (or separate/end/disconnect) with integrity.

I encourage you to become more mindful of opportunities for goodbye. They show up in many ways- big and small. Our western society has not honored the practice of saying goodbye very well. We simply do not know how to say goodbye or it is coupled with negative beliefs and feelings. Think about times when professional or personal relationships ended….how did it go? What was stirred up inside of you? What feelings were you left with? If the ending happened abruptly or due to a break up, what closure did you need that you did not get? Unanswered questions, thoughts and feelings are often left “hanging” unresolved and unexpressed. Yep, that’s hard stuff to face.

Let us change that. Let us depart with a hug, handshake, eye to eye contact, heart to heart presence. Let us communicate our thoughts and ask the questions that are bubbling up inside. Let us not have regrets of words unspoken. Endings are hard and take practice but the outcome offers a chance for growth and healthy closure. Because ultimately when we say goodbye we are saying hello- just don’t skip all the stuff in between.

“And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings”

–Meister Eckhart

As we leave 2018 behind, we are presented with another opportunity to honor the end of a year. It was immensely difficult year for so many people. I encourage you to reflect on this past year and give honor in a way that feels right for you. Maybe it’s through writing, listening to music that puts to words a reflection of your unique year or in meditation and solitude. Find a way to leave the the year behind- with integrity, with honor and respect. If it was a difficult year, speak that, express that, grieve that….and then let it go. I wish you your heart’s desires in 2019. Be well.


1 thought on “Honoring the Goodbye”

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