“You need to say goodbye. You need to bring closure to this in your heart,” my midwife said as she gently prepared to show me the son I had just miscarried.
I’ve stood crying in front of airports, dorm rooms, and cars packed with wedding gifts as each of the six children I’ve raised jumped out of the nest.
When it came time to let Mom and Dad pass away, I was more prepared. I knew they were ready. And to be honest, caring for my dad had been difficult for my sisters and I even though we loved him deeply.
Just before we moved out of our house of 33 years, we held a family bar-b-que and laughed ourselves silly as everyone shared their stories of growing up there.
It was a way for each of us to say goodbye to a place that would never be ours again.
There will be more goodbyes as my years move forward:
- Treasures I no longer have room for or energy to upkeep
- Friends who fade away because of distance
- Loved ones and pets who pass before I do
- A church I’ve attended for years and a community that I’ve loved
- Perhaps my current home as I move to an elder care facility
- Hobbies and activities my body can no longer do
Saying goodbye can be painful, but necessary. You need closure to each season of your life, even if that season is short.
So how do you do closure well? So a piece of your past doesn’t weigh down your future—turning you into a bitter person who refuses to accept change?
How to say goodbye
Look at a goodbye for what it is—an end to something. Some part of your life will never be the same again. There are ways to say goodbye well. Here are a few:
A person (or pet) who dies: One of the wisest pieces of advice the Hospice nurse gave us when my mom was passing away was for each family member to privately say goodbye to Mom.
She instructed us to tell mom, even though she was unresponsive and appeared asleep, how much she meant to us. We were then to tell her that we would be fine and she could let go and leave for heaven.
Mom’s spirit and soul were still active even if her body wasn’t. She heard us through her spirit and probably her ears. It was a very freeing experience for us, and, I believe, for mom.
The same type of goodbye can be shared with someone, even a pet, whose death was sudden. You’ll find personal peace and closure through visiting their bedside, grave, or by finding a quiet spot in your garden to say goodbye.
A place: Walk through the building or drive the streets saying goodbye to favorite places. Pray for those who will now call this place home.
Or gather with family and friends to celebrate and share good memories if you’re moving from a home, church, or job. Some make a scrapbook if they’ve lived or worked in a place for a long time.
A thing, such as your favorite set of china: Some years before they passed, Mom and Dad began giving away some of their favorite treasures to their kids and grandkids.
Attached to the item would be a note telling the story behind the piece and what it meant to Mom or Dad.
I’ve been doing the same since I reached the age they were when they started gifting their treasures at Christmas time and birthdays.
A season of life: Graduations, weddings, divorce, retirement or a child moving away to college are all examples of the ending of a season in your life.
A celebration event that includes honoring the good of the past is how to say goodbye when transitioning from one phase of life to another.
How to move forward after a goodbye
Closure is complete when you move forward. Sometimes that’s difficult, and a good counselor is needed to help you sort out the future.
Here are some tips to help you make the transition:
- Remember your experiences with this person, place, or season of life.
- Take inventory of those memories and the knowledge you’ve gained through the living of them. What did you learn—both the easy and the hard lessons? In this way, nothing and no one is gone forever. You’re incorporating what you’ve learned into the treasure storehouse of your soul.
- Now share those treasure with others as the Holy Spirit opens opportunities to pass that wisdom on to others.
You’ll be letting go and saying goodbye for the rest of your life. Learn to do it well.