The last couple of weeks have been sad. Every year around this time, we say “good-bye” to friends going on furlough and also to those who are leaving for good. These times of grieving come and go so often that sometimes I just want to stay in my house and hide from it. A couple of weeks ago a close friend of mine left Papua New Guinea with no plans to return. Even though for 6 months I knew her departure was coming, it still gutted me. The more I tried to pretend like it wasn’t happening, the more it was difficult to contain my emotions. I didn’t want her to feel badly so I tried to hide it from her. One day I just came out with “I’m really sad you are leaving” and we both started to cry together. It turns out she was glad I told her! Sometimes the person going needs to know that she will be missed!
I think the thing I grieve the most when I say “good-bye” to someone is the possibilities. When you have a friend you can drop in on or call up at any time for a playdate, those possibilities vanish when they leave. Once she leaves, access to her is limited. All of the fun family activities and holidays you’ve spent together are happy memories, but in the near future, there won’t be any more of those. I told another friend recently that when someone leaves our community, it’s almost like you are grieving like you would for someone who died. The way we did friendship has to end and it forces me into a new way of doing life here. I think the most painful part of the grieving process is the ‘letting go’ part.
I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to saying ‘good-bye’ or if it will always tug at me like this. This week two more friends leave and those of us who stay behind will grieve their loss. I have found that the best way through this is just to let the emotions come. Of course it’s not healthy to wallow in them but just feeling sad is ok sometimes. I tell my kids this a lot because they are grieving too! I think about cultures where rituals are a big part of life…I am glad that we have taken the time to say ‘good bye’ to leaving friends properly.
One day, we will all be together in heaven…and all of this loss and pain will be just a distant memory (or will we forget it completely?) I keep thinking of the people I miss and how great it will be to see their faces again!
Since transition is also a big part of the grieving process, I will end with a quote from my favorite transition expert, William Bridges in The Way of Transition
“Transition does not require that you reject or deny the importance of your old life, just that you let go of it. Far from rejecting it, you are likely to do better with the ending if you honor the old life for all that it did for you. It got you this far. It brought you everything you have. But now—although it may be some time before you are comfortable doing so—it is time for you to let go of it. Your old life is over. No matter how much you would like to continue it or rescue it or fix it, it’s time to let go.“