17 Dec 2014

Ten tips for easier goodbyes part 1

"The truth is that goodbyes never get easier, no matter how many times you rehearse them.  And expat life guarantees an assault course of farewells, demanding a strong constitution, nerves of steel and significant emotional muscle." Says Victoria Scott. 

This is the first of a series of posts on goodbyes. there will be stories and tips on lessening the fear  of goodbyes. Emigration can give you possibly your hardest goodbye. Unfortunately, it is not your last.

Once you have emigrated, there will be more goodbyes; the times you visit your loved ones and they visit you. Sometimes the fear of the goodbye starts before you have said hello. One of the immigrants interviewed in the book, The Emotional Challenges of Immigration, noted that as her mother was only visiting for two weeks, she felt there was always a feeling that there would have to be a goodbye soon. She said it left a cloud over whole the visit. I too have felt the dread of goodbyes before I start the visit. I now try to focus on hellos and making memories to carry me beyond the goodbye.

Goodbyes are sad because of the love you feel for the person you are leaving. By acknowledging feeling sad at saying goodbye is part of the loving, you take the first step to feeling less negative about the goodbye.

My worst goodbye as an immigrant was the most fumbled too.
2001 we all went to visit my family for Christmas. Mid-January four children under nine and I were at Heathrow Airport checking in to fly back to New Zealand. My husband had left a week before. A dozen extended family members were also there to see us off. Five check-in bags were bulging with Christmas presents. I had been worried about the weight of the bags until I was asked whether there were any batteries inside them. I had no idea where Buzzlightyear or other possible battery toys were. I wasn't even sure which toys made it into the bags. My nephew came to the rescue as he organised family members to help search for the offending toys. I watched my children begin to melt as the cases and their toys were pulled apart. Perhaps I could cancel the departure? Apparently not. An airport escort with an empty wheelchair stood at our counter and called my name.
(As no pushchair was allowed on one of the flights, I had requested a wheelchair to help my bad back and use my lap as a handy surface for my one-year-old, hand luggage and if necessary a three-year-old.) The long-legged eager escort confirmed my name, scooped me up and whisked me away. WAIT! I haven’t said goodbye. I haven't got my children. Jumping out of the wheelchair like a miracle-cured-paraplegic, I turned to my gathered family to start the goodbye embraces. “I’m gonna have to hurry you, Miss.”  Everyone got a squeeze, except the escort who got a stare. He pointed to the chair. I plonked into it and squeezed the two youngest and three bags of hand luggage onto my lap . Before I was able to give the last wave to those I love, I was rotated to the direction I had to head, away from them.  Running beside me with their backpacks, the two older two children struggled to keep up with the overloaded runaway wheelchair and its leggy escort. There had been no gentle departure, no tender kiss and hug, no last look. There was no time for shared acknowledgement of our sadness. I felt robbed of the goodbye moment and frustrated that the goodbye time had been filled with irritation rather than loving.

What would I have done differently? I could have been more assertive to my eager escort. I could have checked the fine print and known about battery toys. I could have acknowledged that it was neither the check-in staff nor the eager escort's fault that I was feeling so robbed. The reality was that saying goodbye I was going to feel bad anyway, even if it had all gone smoothly. However, it would have been soothing to relish the last embraces and absorb the loving sadness.

Making goodbyes easier:

  1. Decide on what is best for you and the people you are leaving. Long goodbyes aren't necessarily easier. Overseas Emigration blog says,"A friend gave me great advice about leaving and going to the airport. They suggested I say goodbye to my family at home and then ask a best friend to take me to the airport; to say your goodbyes to close family members at the security gate is just too emotionally charged."  
  2. Having been through many airport goodbyes, I now tend to limit the time at the airport to a cup of coffee, I have not been in the frame of mind to shop or browse with the people I am about to leave. 
  3. If the goodbye has felt rushed and chaotic, if you are the one leaving, you have the privacy of a long plane journey to feel sad.

More tips to come in later posts.

Finally, this is one of my favourite farewell songs. I have sung it many times as I prepare for the departure. The song doesn't get sung at the moment of departure as there is usually a lump in my throat. Click on the caption to hear it.

Goodbye Song

Do you have a goodbye story? Let us know your saddest, best and worst goodbyes. Do you have any tips to pass on? Be the first or last to comment in the space below.

More to come:
More of ten tips for making goodbyes easier
More goodbyes
Meaning of goodbye
Quotes galore
Empty nesting and goodbyes

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