Doing “Goodbye” Right

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I’m not a huge fan of goodbyes. The mere word to many seems like an oxymoron. How in the world can a departure be good? Someone – or something – is moving forward and leaving another behind. Many goodbyes bring tears and sorrow, most evoke promises that are seldom kept for long:
-We promise to write to departing friends, giving assurance we will “keep in touch”
-We tell colleagues who are moving on to new opportunities that we will get together soon, knowing schedules and responsibilities make it near impossible
-We cling to crumbling relationships with pleas that we will change our offending behavior
-We grieve the loss of loved ones, attempting to barter personal changes we need to make as currency for time

Yes, goodbyes are hard. Despite their sadness, goodbyes can turn into good byes.

Leaving, no matter the circumstance, is never easy for either party. When one door closes, it ushers in the season of change for everyone involved. And whether it is a new job, a new personal life or a the conclusion of a life well-lived, the process to follow is much the same.

We have to weigh heavily our responsibilities to those we leave behind. Good or bad, we are leaving people who rely heavily on us. Our time in their lives – personal or professional – came with accountabilities and expectations that must end. As professionals, we need to ensure that we are leaving our business relationships and records in good stead. We owe it to the clients we serve to pass the reigns to capable hands; ensuring commitments and promises can be fulfilled.

In our personal life, the relationships are far more important, but the responsibility no less: we owe it to those we love to be able to function without us and have the life skills to survive. Despite the difficulty of an ending life or relationship, making sure those we love – or once loved – have the means to go on living must be discussed and planned for. Closure is so hard without it.

We must prepare ourselves for the next phase we are embarking upon. Whether it is to learn the skills necessary to thrive in a new position, eliminate the clutter we’ve amassed to make the physical move less stressful, or to ensure our heart has been freely given to God, avoiding this work will only derail our future plans. We cannot take lightly the importance of preparing ourselves for the next chapter to come.

We must encourage those we leave behind. There is sweet sorrow when goodbyes are spoken. Co-workers and clients will miss our contributions, lovers – even embittered ones – deserve to be shown respect and compassion; dear friends and family will cling to the memories of final moments and words. Ensuring our words, actions and reactions are grounded in love and encouragement will make the parting a little easier.

We must take care of unfinished business. The rule is simple: don’t leave a mess for someone else to clean up. Finish the projects you started. Close out the open accounts in your name, ensuring your outstanding balances are paid in full. Return to others the property you have borrowed. Heal the hurts and clear up the misunderstandings. Say ‘thank you’ and ‘I love you’ to those who need to know. If you made the mess, don’t expect someone else to set things right on your behalf.

Taking time before we go to celebrate our accomplishments is important. We must all take time to make lasting memories with the people we care about and do the work we must to leave behind a better situation than we found. That should be the priority of us all.

Yes, some goodbyes come at the most inconvenient of times and can be horribly unplanned. But if we live, daily, as if each day might bring an unexpected farewell, we can soften the blow and make it a good bye.
-We can leave behind order and structure for others to follow until they begin to trust their own instinct and skills.
-We can instill confidence and capability that our work will continue.
-We provide assurance that the time spent together was invaluable and far out measures any temporary pain that endings bring
-We can leave lasting memories and legacies that others will remember, leverage and share

And most importantly, we can trust that when we meet again, whether on this Earth or not, it will be a joyous reuniting.

Make sure you live each day preparing for every goodbye to be a good one. That is a part of embracing this outrageously blessed life.

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