“Goodbye…” It’s such a powerful and emotive word, isn’t it? And, as we will see, it’s more than just a word to signify a parting; it’s a way to complete a cycle. By saying healthy goodbyes we bring a sense of closure and ready ourselves for the new chapter in our lives. Here’s how we can do this, and why we should…
We are all familiar with farewells – expats especially so. Whether we’re the one leaving or the one who stays behind, we will always feel the sadness of a parting. Change, however, is the only constant. We will have many opportunities to say goodbye in our lives, and not just because we are expats. Saying goodbye is, therefore, a skill to practice and an emotional process to go through.
Saying goodbye sucks
This is especially true for expats, who have to say goodbye more than most! A common reaction to an upcoming goodbye is to become detached. Many expats will keep their distance from loved ones, whether friends, colleagues or family, before a relocation. We may shut off and try to avoid the goodbyes entirely.
A very good friend of mine, who I’d spent time with almost daily, did this as he was due to leave the Netherlands. He gave me a quick hug and left. This wasn’t the goodbye I wanted and it left an uneasy sadness (perhaps for him too).
Why is goodbye so important?
Though we may avoid proper closure or not know how to handle it, going through the sadness of an ending is normal and healthy. “Goodbye” represents that closure and helps with a smoother transition. Closing the cycle gives you a strong foundation as you begin again.
A healthy goodbye also helps you to savor the good parts of your experience; it holds these as treasures from your previous chapter and into your new one. (These treasures can never be taken away from you.) This can give you strength; it can give you love. It can give you the power to continue when the transition is difficult.
Healthy goodbyes beyond the expat experience
They’re valuable in every meaningful relationship we have. For example, you may know your relationship is ending, but find yourself struggling to let go. This is tough, we know, but it’s better to find the strength to say goodbye, sooner rather than later, and to bring in that end. Why? Because your time is precious; it is a non-renewable resource. And you can only start over when it’s over.
If this sounds too painful, it can help to think of your emotions as the seasons: after winter comes spring, comes summer, comes autumn…. How long you want to remain in winter is up to you to a great extent. What can you do to bring spring, without forcing it? You can take your time in the “winter” months – to reflect, to learn – and then you can say goodbye to winter and begin to lean into spring.
What else do we need for a healthy start?
We’ve discussed the pain – and importance – of goodbyes, but it also helps to look forward. Ask yourself:
“What else do I need for a healthy start?”
“What is important to me?”
“What matters the most to enable as peaceful a transition as possible?”
These transitional phases are difficult sometimes, but they can also be very exciting! There is the pain, yes, for something precious that is gone; there also is the beauty. But isn’t life a little bitter-sweet?
How do you feel about goodbyes?
First published on Expat Nest.