Image of "Woman expressing vulnerability in the middle of nowhere" by Sira Anamwong courtesy of

 “Woman expressing vulnerability in the middle of nowhere” by Sira Anamwong/

The problem with goodbye is something that pundits and pop psychologists gloss over. Instead of addressing it, they repackage goodbye into something positive and encouraging. Some espouse that it is the start of something new while others point out it is the chance to fashion the life you always imagined it would be. Goodbye is always seen from the point of view of the person who is leaving. Seldom is the story of the one who is left behind given a second glance. In fact, people assume he or she doesn’t have a story to tell.

“Be supportive” or “Don’t be selfish” or “It is not about you” are the clichés hurled at the one left behind who, without anyone noticing or giving notice, has turned abnormally reticent and glum. No one acknowledges the anguish, for instance, and instead throws accusations of being petty and self-absorbed for not taking part in the moment’s felicity. The one departing is off to a new adventure or life and we all should wish the person well.

It is so easy to say goodbye when you are the one saying it and leaving for a new job, new residence, or new chapter of a life. Everyone has a kind or gentle word. But people suddenly become mute when it comes to addressing the one left behind, the one who has, in a second, turned into the elephant in the room.

So, tell me, what do you say to the person bereft of a friend or lover that will assuage the feelings of hurt and seeming abandonment without sounding insincere?


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