Embracing goodbyes

Several years ago I deeply struggled with goodbyes. It was a year where many friends moved away, some left without telling us on time that they would leave.

They didn’t take the time to say goodbye, they simply disappeared from our life. This made  me and my family experience something that I called the goodbye-shock. It was a sense of numbness, anger and incredulity.

How could they forget to tell us? How could they not take the time to say goodbye to us? 

The difficulty of saying goodbye lays in the fear of not coping with the emotions, with realizing that it might be forever.

Other goodbyes followed, some were easier, some not. Fact is that when people leave “out of the blue”, we usually question the whole friendship: Had they been really our friends? Did they fool us? Or are they simply unable to cope with goodbyes? It’s frequently the latter one – or at least I keep repeating this to my children as I don’t want them to assume that they were not “important enough” to merit a proper goodbye.

I started studying the impact of goodbyes on people, the analogy with grief. The way people say farewell, how much time they allow us to get used to the thought that they won’t be part of their lives determines the way we react.

If goodbyes are said too late, or even denied, it feels like a betrayal or even a bereavement. 

I’m not always good at goodbyes and I’m guilty to not have always taken enough time to let every person that was important for me know how much she/he meant to me. It is emotionally exhausting to let everyone know that we’re leaving, that we’re going to miss them and the life together. 

But we need to take the time for this. It’s now 5 years that I clear my schedule around the end of the school year in order to have time to meet with friends who are leaving. We meet for a coffee, a lunch, a walk on the beach, a dinner, and we do this in a big group.


Among the many gifts I offered and received, these are the most valuable ones for me, personally. 

1) A present that means something to you both – not too big: think about the boxes she’s already packing! 

As I like to read, I usually offer books about either a topic she likes and will remind her about the time we spent together or an exhibition, museum etc. we visited, with a personal inscription.



2) Write a letter. It can also be a card, but write something very personal that will comfort her when she re-reads it in the new place. Something that will make her smile. I lately scanned all the letters and cards from my friends. One day they will be a great reminder of all the paths I crossed… When I feel overwhelmed or know that I won’t be able to have the special 5 minutes to tell what I want to say, I put it on paper. This is a good solution when you run out of time.




3) Prepare pictures of the special moments spent together. It can be on a USB stick or printed or you can share in Dropbox or Google-Docs. Staying connected via facebook is another way that makes us feel more connected with those who physically left. On facebook I reconnected with many people I lost sight of due to many moves and it really helps keep in touch with those I really care about (you know who you are ;-)… ).




And don’t forget to build a RAFT



I dedicate this post to: Francesca, Loredana, Patrizio, Ivano, Pietro, Giancarlo, Annamaria, Piero, Mario, Marco, Michele, Arianna, Paola, Giovanna, Theresa, Anny, Melanie, Anna, Irene, Cinzia, Sabrina, Yvonne, Archie, Anne-Sophie, Christine, Luca, Ivan, Federico, Daniela, Thomas, Kristy, Kirsten, Kim, Manuela, Roberta, Elisabetta, Corinne, Isabella, Claudia, Ursula, Teresa, Daniela, Lisa, Nathalie, Melany, Laura,…


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