Saying Goodbye: Learning To Let Go

“How lucky I am to have something
that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
-Little Orphan Annie

Saying goodbye. It’s something we all do at various times in our lives. Some of us do it consciously and intentionally and some of us avoid it like the plague. This week, I’m saying goodbye to a dear friend who’s moving to Europe.  While the trip marks an exciting new adventure in his life (and I’m very happy for him), I feel sad to see him go.  It’s another chance to practice saying goodbye with open eyes and an open heart.

Here’s what I’ve learned about loss and endings:

1. Saying goodbye is a process not a destination.

Whether you’re saying goodbye to a relationship that’s ending, a child who’s gone off to college, a pet who has passed on, or a job you once loved, it takes time to fully acknowledge and appreciate all that has occurred. When we say goodbye, we never say goodbye to one person, one event, or one thing. We say goodbye to many experiences – the lessons learned, the challenges won and lost, the unfulfilled promises, or the unexpected joys. This takes time, patience, and a willingness to sift through and experience all of our feelings.

2. You must fully embrace the ending to allow a new beginning.

The best way to create the space for a great, new beginning is to fully participate in the ending. This means acknowledging what was with open eyes. I’ve learned to say goodbye with meaning and purpose by using the power of ritual. I couldn’t imagine moving out of my old home, for example, without taking the time to walk through every room with Michael, to reminisce about what happened there over time. The ritual of revisiting memories and feelings, both good and bad, allows us to honor and appreciate what we’ve been fortunate enough to experience.

3. Surrender to the sadness.

In my youth, I spent enormous amounts of time and energy trying to avoid the pain of saying goodbye – resources that could have been put to better use. I’ve since learned to accept and embrace the sadness as a normal part of the process. After all, the sadness simply means that we’re experiencing the loss of something that held significance in our lives.

Your loss has earned the right to pull at your heart. If you allow yourself to go through it instead of working hard to go around it, you’ll save yourself a whole lot of energy. You can’t feel joy without cultivating the space that comes from feeling pain.

There’s so much more to be said about saying goodbye, and this is simply my attempt at a start. I hope it helps you in dealing with an ending in your life. If the pain feels like too much, remember this: There’s a new beginning waiting to unfold. It’s just not time yet. When you fully honor what was, what will be will be worth the wait.

Take Action Challenge

This week, do some kind of ritual that honors an ending in your life. Throw away paperwork from an old job, write your college-bound son or daughter a letter, light a candle for someone who has passed on, or put away photographs from a relationship that’s no longer in your life. Whatever you do, do it with love and full intention. After all, your endings are just as important as your beginnings

This week’s video is almost 40 years old and it’s a brief lecture by Victor Frankl, author of “Man’s Search for Meaning.”  It’s an inspiring clip and you can watch it here.  Thanks, Richard!




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Author Information

Cheryl Richardson

Cheryl Richardson is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including, Take Time for Your LifeLife MakeoversStand Up for Your LifeThe Unmistakable Touch of GraceThe Art of Extreme Self Care, You Can Create an Exceptional Life with Louise Hay, and her new book, Waking Up in Winter: In Search of What Really Matters at Midlife.

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