Healthy Goodbyes for Healthy Starts
“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 practise 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 savour 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? Do you have any tips that could help others? Join the conversation below – we love to hear from you.
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15 commentsWrite a comment
I love this article, Vivian! Tomorrow I’m saying Goodbye to the apartment where I lived for the last 4 years. A lovely and cosy place in the centre of Amsterdam – the place where my first child was born. My family and I are moving to a bigger place outside the city centre to prepare our new nest for the arrival of our second child. Personally I feel a bit sad to move away from this apartment, yet I believe life is about movement and making space ðŸ™‚ so it’s time to move towards our new home and new phase. Xxx, Angela
Thank you for the reminder that we will face all kinds of goodbyes in our lives. May you carry the best memories of your old apartment forward with you as you create new memories in your new home.
All the very best
Thank you very much for your article which was very helpful and accurate! 2 months ago I experienced a relocation process from Malta to Germany and my initial intention was to become detached from people in order to make the transition less painful. Fortunately, some very warm initiatives from my colleagues and friends helped me to let myself delve into these very strong and emotional “goodbye moments” and as a result I left Malta with a sense of gratitude and completeness. This also helped me to understand that each step of the transition process is important in order to start the new chapter of my life with a clear mind and with the feeling that my previous situation was properly handled and the previous chapter was successfully closed.
I have come to the conclusion that we should never avoid goodbyes in every aspect of our life. It is better to feel some small pain and expose ourselves sometimes than hiding and escaping from situations, because in the long term we are hiding and escaping from life by behaving like this.
Thank you for sharing this with us here the Expat Nest community. It is indeed quite normal (and common) for us to detach, because the emotions and sadness can feel overwhelming. It takes great courage to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and yet doing so deepens our experience and relationships. Thank you for reminding us of this!
Wishing you all the best in your new life and thank you for being such a loyal and valuable member of the Expat Nest community (from Day 1:)
Without a proper goodbye, no new start!
However painful, make sure to delve in the pain and say goodbye properly. The first time after having lived abroad, the pain of saying goodbye was so intense I decided to ‘just not do it’. That thought me a very important and hard lesson: without a proper goodbye you can’t make a new start. Ha, I actually flew back a year after my departure and said goodbye properly (to the people and the places who/which where still there). Only after that, I could work on starting over in a new place. After our second posting, having learned my lesson, I started saying goodbye on time. Silently in the beginning, with the passing of the seasons: my last fall, winter, spring and summer. And out loud when our departure date approached, to all the people who played a role in my life during our 4 year stay. I made pictures, talked, hugged, cried, gave farewell gifts and received so many tokens of appreciation back.
Saying goodbye is important in every phase, to pay respect, to be quiet and contemplate, not only for expats and repats….
Thank you for sharing your inspiring story, and how wonderful that you returned to say your goodbyes for greater closure. You also mention an extra (important) insight: by letting others know of our departure, we have a chance to be included in THEIR goodbyes to us. The saying of goodbye then becomes a community/supportive experience, not one that we face alone, in silence.
Your words touched my heart. I feel you.
I moved to Canada a year ago and it feels that I just keep saying goodbye over and over and over again (when visiting The Netherlands – my home country – for Christmas, when my best friend or family members visit me, or when we skype and everyone is together at Easter). The goodbyes don’t get easier or different at all. I guess I didn’t allow myself to have a healthy start yet. A big thank you for this beautiful article, it gave me some useful insights!
Thank you so much for your heartfelt message. Goodbyes are never easy, the pain accumulates, it’s true, no matter how “practised” we are at them! I hope the tips here support you to approach your goodbyes as part of beautiful cycles.
Due to many many moves and changes of jobs over the years as well as other events, I’ve had to say goodbye more than once and sometimes it was easy and sometimes it wasn’t. No easy answers here I would say. At times I managed to reconnect over time and a few times maintain the contact all along. For instance I have at least once a year dinner with two former colleagues, with one I go back 23 years and with the other one 18 years. Last weekend I visited a friend with whom I go back 26 years. No easy answers here and sometimes I was sad when saying goodbye and/or losing contact but then again I also learned: one door closes and another one opens. Overall I don’t complain, have no reason to do so at all I would say, and go with the flow. That’s how I deal with it. That’s my two cents on this subject.
Thank you for sharing your experience with us and your insights which may be of value to other members of our community.
As you said, one door closes and another one opens. It is up to us how we handle this transition, the goodbyes and above how we keep in touch with those who matter to us no matter where they are.
Many thanks and best wishes
What an interesting article! I must have missed reading it when you wrote it in May 2017, Coincidentally that was when I was in the middle of planning to leave The Netherland. I relocated from the Netherlands to Canada in August 2017, and I can tell you, it was not easy saying goodbye to the relationships I built there, neither was it easy for them to say goodbye to me. The same thing happened when I had to leave Nigeria to the Netherland. Indeed saying goodbye is a two-way thing, In some cases, while one party is happy to go (though with great emotions) because of the greater heights and new great opportunities waiting the person leaving, It can be a challenge for the person being left because of the gap the leaving will create. However, as you rightly stated, a healthy goodbye will also have a way to heal the pain making it easier for them to keep reconnecting – thanks to social media.
However, there are some leaving/goodbyes that is very difficult to make, for example, when you want to walk out of a relationship you consider not beneficial to you. In this case, you are not leaving the town or country, but a group. For example, you belong to a group and have contributed to in the past, but suddenly realise that they are not adding value to you. How would you say goodbye to them without causing pain to either party?
Your recent article on “Leaving is an Art” took me to this page so hopefully, you can link the two.
Thank you for this insightful comment and for sharing your story. Leaving a relationship when moving to a new place is not easy for either party, it’s true, and goodbyes have many nuances. They are hard to say even when we know it is right for us! And though we cannot prevent others from feeling pain when we say goodbye (including a goodbye that doesn’t involve a move, as you point out), I believe that healthy goodbyes are healing in the long run.