Linda Lewis Griffith

Saying goodbye is hard — here’s how to do it

The Kansas City Star

No one likes saying goodbye. We cry and hug loved ones when we take them to the airport. Many parents sob after dropping their college freshmen off at the dorms. I sweetly ask my grown sons to text me when they get to their homes in Los Angeles or San Francisco, just so I know that they’ve arrived safely.

This dislike of farewells starts early; babies as young as 8 months old cling and wail when their parents leave them with a sitter for the evening. Though we eventually outgrow that behavior, many everyday partings remain tinged with underlying angst.

The source of all that sadness? Fear. Deep down, we’re afraid of being alone. With good reason. Human beings are social creatures. We’re far stronger in groups than individually.

That fear transfers to our loved ones when they’re not in our vicinity. We mistakenly feel that our presence automatically shields them from harm. The mere thought of them being injured is more than we can bear.

We’re also afraid of the unknown. Change always means the end of something familiar and the entry into a new era. Hence, any impending transitions, whether positive or negative, can trigger the same pangs of dread as saying goodbye.

This fact has far-reaching and unexpected implications. We stay in bad relationships far longer than we should. We remain in dead-end jobs because it’s too scary to move on. We even live with clutter because we can’t bear to part with our stuff.

Of course, sometimes goodbyes are horribly sad. Our lives are forever altered. Every tear we shed is justified and infused with great pain.

Still, nothing is permanent. Goodbyes are part of the human experience. Accepting the inevitable allows us to move forward in our lives and make wise decisions in the process.

Linda Lewis Griffith’s column is special to The Tribune. She is a marriage and family therapist. For information, visit www.lindalewisgriffith.com.

How to say goodbye:

  • Know when to go. Listen to your inner dialogue. It tells you when something isn’t working, when it’s time to move on. You may be uncomfortable with the message. Allow it to be your guide.
  • Sit with your decision. Avoid doing anything rash. Give your resolution ample time to gel to ensure you’re on the right path.
  • Be gracious. There’s no need to be cruel or burn bridges unnecessarily. And there’s no award for theatrics. Exit on a positive note whenever possible.
  • Be sad. Goodbyes can be fraught with emotions. Accept whatever bubbles to your psychological surface. Some feelings may be uncomfortable now. Eventually they will pass.
  • Lay out a plan. Take charge of defining this next stage of your life. Your arrangements may be temporary and will undoubtedly change. Still, take control where you can to minimize stress and keep you on track.
  • Accept your new normal. Goodbyes close doors and open others. You can’t know what lies ahead. Flexibility, trust and a good sense of humor are your best allies.
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