The Art of the Goodbye

In less than a month, our little family will leave the town where we have built our lives for over a decade. We are moving to a new state, following new opportunities — and we are excited. But there is also sorrow as we leave the community, town, and jobs that we have had for so long.

The world we live in is increasingly mobile, and in this season of life, many of us may find ourselves moving for school, a job, a relationship, or even for an adventure.

Or, we may find ourselves waving goodbye to our dearest friends as they drive away to a new place while we stay put. Compared to a hundred years ago, it is remarkably simple to transport our possessions across the country. What is less simple is navigating the change in friendships when we — or they — move away.

However, saying goodbye — and learning how to do that well — is an important aspect of any meaningful friendship. How do we do that? How do we say goodbye to the people who have shaped our lives in a powerful way?

Here are five ways to say goodbye intentionally.

1. Acknowledge Change.
Some of the deepest pains from friendship come when someone feels forgotten or left behind. If you are moving across the world — or even across the state — be honest about the fact that your friendships will change. Talk with the people who will feel your absence most strongly and have a heart-to-heart about the fact that you can’t really know how the friendship will shift.

Saying goodbye doesn’t mean that anything went wrong in the friendship or that the friendship has failed. It simply is a reality of the world that we live in. Openly acknowledging and discussing that a change is coming in your relationship will make the transition clearer, if not necessarily easier.

2. Under Promise.
As a deep feeler, I feel the urge to promise my close friends that we will talk every week, send letters in the mail, and text regularly. But, the reality is that I don’t know if I will be able to do those things and promising them such will only cause pain to my friends if I don’t follow through. It might even make them feel forgotten when they most definitely are not forgotten to me.

Instead, in seasons of change, it’s a good idea to under promise what you can offer in this next season. Be honest with yourself and with your friends. If you are taking a new job, it might be much more demanding than your current one. You will need current friends in your new community, and much of your time may need to be poured into getting to know new people, especially in the first months of change. But decide what you can promise — and stick to it. A call every other week? Put it on the calendar. A trip every year? Buy the tickets now.

… decide what you can promise — and stick to it.

3. Say Thank You.
We know how much our friends mean to us; often, they don’t. As you prepare to leave (or watch them leave), put down in words what their relationship has meant to you. Thank them, specifically and purposefully, for how they have helped you grow, change, and love for the better.

4. Celebrate Together.
True friendships are a rich gift, and they are worth celebrating. There are countless ways to celebrate friendship with those we love; my husband and I have shared “goodbye meals” with many of our friends. Others have thrown goodbye parties for us. If you’re moving, think of throwing a “friendship party” for those you have loved and who have loved you well in this past season of life.

5. Raise a Glass and Reminisce.
Broadly speaking, our culture doesn’t have clear-cut ways to mark the end of one season and the start of another, especially when it comes to moving away from those we love. But one of the things that my husband and I have done over the last few months is to intentionally remember with our friends.

… we have raised a glass in a toast — to friendship, to our shared history, and to the hope of continued friendship in the years ahead.

We have spent time — at dinners and parties and in our own home — talking about the memories we have made together. We have laughed and sighed with those who have walked us through the last decade, and we have recalled what has been good and bad and hard and surprising. And, after sharing those memories, we have raised a glass in a toast — to friendship, to our shared history, and to the hope of continued friendship in the years ahead.

Have you had a big goodbye lately? How did you handle it?

Image via Lauren Cooper



Ann is the author of the new book, "Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want." You can find her online on Instagram and her website.

4 COMMENTS
  • Mei Wu May 26, 2016

    My best friend gets married in exactly two days, and though it isn’t a move across the country, she is moving out and will say “I do” to the love of her life! Though it is the best thing for the two of them, and such the blessing that they will be to others as a couple, she is going to be so so missed, and I don’t think my heart is quite ready for this transition. I am grateful for the reminder to communicate even in a season where we can seemingly want the transition to just get here so we can move on, hoping for the best and for the friendship to survive the change. In reality, friendships deserve every ounce of reflection and processing. So thank you for such a refreshing post, even though I am discovering this long after it has been published for eyes to see.

  • Natalie August 7, 2015

    I have a big goodbye coming up soon, and this list was great to help me think about how to spend the next few weeks before I leave. Number 1 is super important, sometimes I try and minimize things to make them easier to cope with, so will work on acknowledging reality (and showing it!) Great reminder 🙂

  • Brooke June 9, 2015

    A great article that is making me reminisce over friends and myself moving away. Relationships and life changes, and it is never easy, but it can be if you are honest and make specific commitments. Some friends I haven’t spoken to in years suddenly come back in my life and that tells me despite the changes they will always care.

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  • Courtney Leigh June 9, 2015

    One of my closest friends just moved away a couple weeks ago. I love this list, and I appreciate how pragmatic it is. It’s so tempting to make grandiose promises, but I think it’s actually easier to be realistic about the situation and hope for the best.

    I didn’t do number three, the thanking, so I will definitely keep that in mind for the next time. Great post! And good luck with your move. 😀

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