Saying Goodbye | A Blog About Endings

Goodbyes are hard. So hard, in fact, that many of us skip that step all together within our relationships. Whether saying goodbye, as in “see you later,” or goodbye as a final step in moving on and creating closure in a relationship, we often deny ourselves the opportunity to practice this important human interaction. For many, goodbyes are uncomfortable; they provide the opportunity to both experience and express the value that the interaction, relationship, or person has had in our life. This vulnerability, displaying the difficulty we may experience in separating from another, is a common challenge in a world where many are told to “be a man,” and avoid expressing emotion, or “stay strong,” as in avoiding all chances that you might cry or express other emotions outside the narrow happy, sad, and mad feelings, and be perceived by another as weak, or “overly sensitive.” I’m here to tell you that’s all bogus. The human condition is about experiencing emotions and connecting with others through relationship. It’s a big reason why therapy itself works! Therapy stands to provide the vessel to hold these essential aspects of being a person, living in a world that so often teaches us to deny these exact things!

Saying goodbye is a cathartic exercise in interpersonal connection and validating the impact people and experiences have on our lives. It’s important to honor the footprint others leave on our heart. It’s equally important to recognize that not all relationships are meant to be life-long. Many are time-limited; they are established for a specific reason, and when life circumstances shift, as they inevitably do, the relationship no longer serves its previous function. It’s ok to let relationships ebb and flow and let some float away; that doesn’t mean they didn’t matter. We are continuously evolving as individuals as we move through the lifespan, and accordingly, our needs change and so do the relationships that fulfill those needs.

So practice saying goodbye to your friends, your family, your colleagues, your children. Do what feels right to express the value that their friendship, their support, or their camaraderie has for you. Maybe it’s a hug, or a gentle touch on the arm, a broad and genuine smile, tears, or a kiss, even a handshake can be meaningful if you allow yourself to be authentic. It’s ok to be uncomfortable in this interaction, especially if it feels new and awkward because the vulnerability is new for you. I encourage you to allow others to see the impact that their presence has on you. And when it’s time to say goodbye, whether just for now or forever, know that in saying goodbye you are not devaluing the time previously spent with this person, but saying “I see you, you matter, and you have been part of my story.” Goodbyes may always be hard, but that doesn’t mean we should pretend they don’t exist; emotional discomfort so often equals emotional growth, something we all need to continually pursue joy and life satisfaction.

Written by Lauren Robbins, MS LPCC LADC