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Until Next Time: The Benefit of Healthy Goodbyes

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Tim was leaving for the summer and Janelle didn’t handle it well. She flung her arms around his neck and begged him not to go. As he left, Janelle assured Tim she would call every day and text every hour. She then cried each morning that summer when she awoke and remembered he was gone.

What’s Your Goodbye Style?

Everyone handles good-byes in different ways. Whether it’s parents sending their child off to college or friends parting ways when one moves across the country, saying goodbye is difficult and everyone has their own coping mechanisms for dealing with them.

But what if your coping style is unhealthy? Like Janelle, many of us have gotten into bad habits when leaving our favorite people or things behind, or letting go of those leaving us.

To create healthier patterns, try the following dos and don’ts of good-byes:

Do Avoid Being Dramatic: Do you want your loved one to remember you like Janelle: clutching, crying and clinging with obsessive demands for staying in touch? It’s definitely okay to cry, but over-dramatized good-byes are not healthy send-offs.

Avoid these five comments and commands in an effort to prevent unhealthy expectations:

“Promise me nothing will change.”

“I can’t live without you.”

“I’m afraid something terrible will happen, and I will never see you again.”

“Call me or text me every day!”

“Please, please, please don’t go!”

Each of the above statements creates unrealistic demands and expectations, leaving one person to create a mental image of the other as someone who is weak, needy and overly dramatic. An image of a cheerful smile and affectionate hug is remembered much more fondly.

Don’t Avoid the Goodbye: Although you want to avoid the ultra-emotional scenes described above, you don’t want to avoid good-byes altogether. They are often painful, but we should use good-byes to help us transition. Avoiding it can make the separation even more difficult and create a negative impact on the future

When dealing with something painful, we are tempted to get it over with quickly. With good-byes, give yourself time to do it properly. It’s okay for it to be a process rather than a one-time event.

Don’t Focus On the Negative: Good-byes often elicit reflection. When saying good-bye, take a moment to remember the good times or the painful ones. Learn from the mistakes that were made. Forgive anything that needs to be forgiven (whether it’s yourself or others) and allow the good-bye to also be a fresh beginning.

Do Give Notice: This goes hand-in-hand with “don’t avoid.” Because it will be difficult to say good-bye, we may be tempted to wait until the last minute to tell others we will be leaving. This isn’t fair. Give others (and yourself) time to process the change, work through emotions, and have time to connect with you befor

Do Process Your Emotions: Allow yourself to acknowledge the emotions that saying good-bye can bring to the surface. Don’t deny them. Some may need to be limited in their expression, but don’t feel like you have to refute them and pretend everything is perfect.

Do Choose a Good Setting: Have a friend over for an intimate lunch. Take your child out for a special one-on-one dinner. Don’t make your good-bye during a mad dash to the airport or a loud going-away party.

Do Say Goodbye to What You Need to, But Also Say Hello: People aren’t the only things we miss. Give yourself permission to say farewell to things others may consider ridiculous – your bedroom, your favorite tree or even the delicious dessert from your local dive.

As you allow yourself to experience sadness and give yourself time to say good-bye to what you will miss, be sure to say hello to new things as well. Look for new relationships. Get excited about what a new location or job has in store.

Remember: Good-bye is not just an end…it’s also a new beginning.

Image Courtesy of iStock

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