Why It’s Important to Have the Courage to Say Goodbye

have the courage to say goodbyeI’ve never liked goodbyes. Maybe it’s because my father died suddenly when I was seven, and neither he nor I got to say goodbye. Or perhaps I simply avoid the inevitable pain that comes with leave-taking. But each time I don’t say goodbye, I cheat myself out of fully experiencing life.

Goodbyes are inevitable. Yes, they can be painful and challenging, but life is a mishmash of emotions and experiences. If you don’t allow them all into your life, you prevent yourself from living fully.

So, if you want to live fully, say goodbye…and feel all the emotions that go with leave-taking. Then shut the door, and walk away.

Leaving California

I’m writing this post just three days after leaving California and my home there. I lived in California for 20 years, the last 17 of them in the same house nestled amidst the redwood trees.

My children spent many of their formative years in that home. Like them, my husband and I experienced joy, sadness, anger, and love in that house, too.

I self-published my first books from my loft office with its view through the trees, over the hills, and to the water. And it was from that office that I got my first traditional publishing deal, started my Nonfiction Writers’ University and Inspired Creator Community programs, and coached my first clients.

I rode my bike on the mountain roads, walked on the beach, and made friends with other coaches and writers who lived in the area as well as my neighbors. I got involved with the San Francisco Writers’ and the Writing for Change Conferences. I rode horses on trails through the redwoods and on the rolling hills beneath the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Was it hard to say goodbye to all of that? Yes. But I did.

Rather than running out the door, I gave myself time for a real goodbye. I allowed myself to walk through each room and remember it all…and feel the joy, frustration, sadness, and growth that I experienced while there. I imagined my family in those rooms in good times and bad.

And I allowed myself to cry tears of grief for what I was leaving behind. I tearfully said goodbye to a house that served my family and me so well and that we made into a home.

Avoiding Goodbye

In the weeks prior to the move, I also said goodbye to my rabbi and his spouse, my doctors, and a few friends and neighbors. Was it hard? Yes. But I’m glad I did it.

I’ve avoided saying goodbye to the people I care about in the past. As I said, I’m not sure why, but I tend to slink off without ever letting anyone know I’m leaving.

There’s an inherent problem with avoiding goodbye, though. This choice creates an incomplete relationship. And incomplete relationships tend to become problematic.

You think about these relationships and feel regret and sadness. And the fact that they are incomplete keeps you in the past. Whereas completion with anyone allows you to move into the future freely—without ties to the past.

My incomplete relationship with my father has taken me years to complete. After all, he is not alive for me to say goodbye to him. I’ve had to do this through hypnotic regression and therapy. Even now, I’m not sure that I’m 100 percent complete with that relationship.

Saying Goodbye Takes Courage

It takes courage to say goodbye—at least to people and places you love. You know your leave-taking will feel challenging. You know saying goodbye will make you sad.

So, saying goodbye is an act of courage. And spending time with those whom you are leaving is a brave action, and not everyone has that level of courage.

I have been cowardly in such situations…until recently. But I can tell you that courageously saying goodbye feels better than taking the cowardly way out and avoiding doing so.

It’s hard to feel good about yourself when you haven’t done what you know is right. And it’s hard to face the people you care about later when you and they both know you walked away without bothering to say goodbye.

Sorrow is Healthy

That’s why it’s important to think of sorrow as healthy. Grief is a part of our human experience, and when we block ourselves from feeling it, we block our life force.

That type of emotional and energetic block can cause all sorts of emotional and physical issues. And the issues can stick with you for years.

The solution is simple: do what you naturally do…feel the sorrow. Grieve for what you leave behind. Then, you can move forward with your life in a healthy manner.

Don’t Only Focus on the Pain

In the Jewish tradition, when someone dies we say, “His (or her) memory will be a blessing.” Indeed, if you allow yourself to remember the good times, the love and joy, and how good the person made you feel, his memory does bless you. You feel those good feelings again and appreciate the relationship.

Of course, if you have only negative thoughts or memories about someone, it can seem difficult to be blessed by their memory. I get that.

The point I’m trying to make, though, is that when you focus only on the negative, such as how much you miss someone or something, you continue to feel pain. But, on the other hand, if you focus on the good times and pleasant experiences with someone or something, you will be showered with blessings.

That’s why after funerals, people gather to talk about the person who died and to share funny and touching stories. That feels better than focusing on loss. And it’s a way to feel blessed that you knew that person at all.

A good friend of mine reminded me to do the same as I said goodbye to my home in California. “Don’t just think about the tough times in the house,” she cautioned. “Think of all the joy you experienced there.”

That’s what I did, and I left the house feeling blessed and complete.

Growing Through Goodbye

Goodbyes provide you with a chance to grow. After all, you grow through every experience.

Additionally, goodbyes make away for hellos. Closing the door on something on someone makes it possible to open another for something or someone new to enter your life. That means each goodbye is followed by a hello.

You’ve probably heard that clearing away clutter makes room for new things to enter your life. Completing relationships makes room for new people to come in as well.

Now, you may not want to throw away those old relationships simply because you moved, like me. But saying goodbye is still closure on the period when you were near someone. And that opens the door to new relationships.

So don’t avoid goodbye. Instead, welcome it as a rite of passage. Indeed, it’s a way to let go of the past, grow, and welcome the future.

How do you feel about saying goodbye? Tell me in a comment below, and please share this post with a friend that might find it helpful.

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Photo courtesy of anyaberkut.

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8 thoughts on “Why It’s Important to Have the Courage to Say Goodbye”

  1. Beautiful post, Nina.

    Transitions are hard, even when the going-to is something you chose, is part of your plan, and something you’ve prepared for. My last leave-taking was not by choice.

    While normally I find goodbyes bittersweet, I am still struggling with who I chose not to say goodbye to because my last and still recent move came about as a result of what I consider a betrayal. I still suffer from the hurt and disappointment of it, a dream shattered. I also still feel anger that the nature of it triggered a PTSD reaction in my husband—nightmares, revenge fantasies, and depression.

    I said my goodbyes to those who either went out of their way to help me with where I needed to go or those who gave me their unwavering support. I said my goodbye to the beauty of the place that until recently we planned to make our home base after over a decade of mostly nomadic life.

    For now, my primary focus is on finding a home where my husband and I can have more control over our lives. We are still in transition and expect our limbo to continue for at least a few more months. Once that’s done, I plan to put energy into considering whether there’s a screenplay in a gently fictionalized version of the place we departed. Our daily life there as well as our departure felt like a Truman episode, true grist for a great sitcom.

    If it works out, that may be my best goodbye ever, to appreciate and share the humor as well as the drama of living in and leaving an alternate life.

    1. Sounds like you’ve handled all of this well and are looking forward to create a positive future. Kudos to you, and I hope it really is your best goodbye ever. 🙂

  2. This is a really helpful post, Nina, and relevant in my life today. Closure or goodbye can also be creative, especially important if the person on the other side isn’t there (my mom) or is unwilling (a friend) to reciprocate

  3. Ariel O'Suilleabhain

    Nina. I am so proud of you. I once failed to say goodbye to someone who I was unable to have a true friendship with because of deep healing I needed to undergo. Now ten years later they are my new hello and a 2nd chance to bless each otherl. And to share our resource of calm kindness, compassion and better and more open communication makes the rich ground of our newer and much different and renewed souls such a good and real anticipation.

    1. There were a few people who I consider friends, but who I don’t see often at all, that I said goodbye to virtually…with text or FB message. I felt fine about that. And their level of interest in getting together with me prior to leaving was an indication of the level of our friendship.

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