Recently we had a work retreat, and my colleagues came from all over the world to visit my home town.
It was awesome catching up with old pals and meeting new ones. We had a cheerful few weeks working in cafes together and going out for fun—swimming, eating, laughing. Quick as could be, it was already time for them to go home. The last night was a flurry and I missed saying goodbye to a couple of my new friends.
And it broke my heart a little bit.
Anytime we say goodbye we are accepting the unknown. When I say goodbye to my kids for the day, I’m acknowledging that they are going out into the big world where any number of things can happen to them. Every interaction we have with another eventually results in a parting of ways. The deeper a connection we have with someone, the more intense the goodbye.
The hardest goodbyes for me are the ones I didn’t get to say.
During college I lost both my brother and father.
My brother had been sick with cancer for a year. We all kept wishing he’d get better. At the end of his life, his health declined quickly. I’d gone on a fun camping trip with friends for the Fourth of July and when I got home my brother was never well again. He was happily visiting with us one day and died a few days later. None of us saw his death coming, and I never said goodbye to him.
It’s haunted me for years.
It busted all of our hearts, especially my dad, who never expressed his emotions much. My brother’s death broke my father—it was the first time I’d ever seen him cry.
A year later, I thought I was all grown up and moved in with my college boyfriend. We were living in Boulder and found a quaint mountain house where we could raise our dogs. When I told my father that I was shacking up, I tried to sneak around the fact that I’d be living with my boyfriend. My father was horrified and said it was sinful to live together before marriage—he was a man with traditional family values. He was furious but didn’t want to say anything unforgivable. He said we’d have to talk about it soon. I never had the chance to work it out with him, because he died suddenly a few days later from a heart attack (a broken heart).
I never said goodbye to my father.
Since then, I’ve loved deeply and widely and have had the opportunity to say goodbye many times. I spent a lot of time traveling during college and met many dear friends. I always went out of my way to be fully present during each goodbye.
But, to this day, sometimes when it’s time to say goodbye to someone I love, it rips the scabs off my heart from the goodbyes I didn’t get to say. I relive the pain of my past broken heart.
Saying goodbye hurts.
It’s the price that comes with having a heart. We will have to kiss our loved ones goodbye one day. And they will have to say goodbye to us too.
Many times we are afforded the luxury of knowing when a loved one is going to depart—on a trip, moving away or just walking out the front door for the day. When my kids leave to school every morning, I always make sure to hug them and say, “I love you.”
Take goodbyes seriously.
When we say goodbye, if we purposely pay attention, it will make a lasting impression on our heart.
The elements of a proper goodbye.
1.~Look them in the eyes and say, “I love you.”
2.~Feel and show whatever emotion arises. Laugh, cry, sigh, smile.
3.~Take deep breaths.
4.~Swallow. Ingest their love.
5.~Write little love notes and hide them in your loved one’s bags or pockets—for them to find later.
6.~Give them a good, long, juicy hug. Or a kiss.
7.~Watch them walk away, or don’t—you decide.
8.~If we accidentally miss our opportunity to say goodbye, we can create a ritual to let them go in our own way.
Last weekend I was on a road trip and happened to be driving through the town where my father and brother were born.
I wrote them each a little goodbye note, kissed it and threw it out the window. I felt free because I was finally able to say goodbye.
To make up for littering these goodbye notes on the highway, I picked up 20 pieces of trash in my neighborhood when I got home.
“Seek not for love, but the barriers you’ve built up against it.” ~ Rumi
“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? It’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s goodbye.”
~ Jack Kerouac, On the Road
“Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say goodnight till it be morrow.”
~ William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Author: Ashleigh Hitchcock
Image: flickr/Meg Cheng