Goodbyes are supposed to be hard

Goodbyes are supposed to be hard

And we are in the throws of it. Not because we seek out friends who leave or because we ourselves are moving, but it’s the flow of life. We find ourselves saying a number of goodbyes this summer and it never gets easier. And goodbyes are exponentially harder when it affects your kids.

I bring you not a how-to on saying goodbyes or finding new friends or numbing the pain, but reflections from our family as we learn to let go and keep our hearts open for more.


For us personally, we’ve been the ones who said the goodbyes and moved on to other places for a number of years. This was in our first 10 years of marriage and when the kids were babies and preschoolers. Goodbyes were certainly hard then as we left a place we loved and moved into the unknown with excitement, but they feel different when you’re the ones staying.

We moved to San Francisco 9 years ago as a family of 5 and with 8 other friends to start a church. Friendship was our goal. We needed friends, wanted friends, and sought friends out. Plus, a church is made up of people and that’s what we were here to start. And it happened. Over time, through vulnerability, in our home, at the park, because of a church, we made friends.

And with friendship, life gets easier. Messier. More beautiful. Friendships can be complicated. Feelings gets hurt. Forgiveness restores. Hearts are mended. Memories made. Trips taken. Date nights. Girls nights. Playdates. Double dates.

But friends don’t all stay. And in a transient city, a transient society, it happens more frequent. Our human tendency is to keep yourself from getting close or let the hurt from a previous move keep you guarded. To play it safe. To keep your distance. But where’s the life, joy, fun in that?

I’m not an expert on goodbyes, but have given a few away in my lifetime. So with much confidence, much on my heart, and tissues nearby, I tell you this…

Goodbyes are supposed to be hard. This means that you’ve loved deeply. This means that you feel it because they’ve been a part of you and you a part of them. You held them as babies. You held each other’s babies. You attended birthday parties. You created reasons to have parties. You sang your lungs out at concerts. You cried your eyes out at what now seems silly. You enjoyed late night talks on the deck, in the kitchen, in the minivan, around the fancy restaurant dinner table. They showed up and it made all the difference. Bad news hit and they were there to listen, to hold you, to check on you for weeks after everyone else forgot.

For several weeks at bedtime prayer, our kids have asked us to pray for their friends who are moving to make new friends where they are going. Then we beg God to bring new friends for our kids. Our kids have loved deeply too and we don’t regret it at all. They feel and hurt and remember. And we pour out our grief to God who can hold it all and ask Him to be our comfort and our source of peace and joy. And yes, to bring humans their ages to their schools, our church, and our neighborhood.

As we stood to say goodbyes, we are the rich ones. The ones who got to do life for a season with strangers who became friends. It is worth it. What we get in the friendship FAR outweighs the pain felt when a move happens. I believe God sows such strength and unity and purpose in us as we give to our friendships that no physical or eternal move can take away. Goodbyes are supposed to be hard as they indicate what was received, what was experienced, what was gained. Of course time plays into this. But no matter how long you are where you are — make friends. Go deep. Make memories. Be spent on others. And let the goodbyes be hard. It means you’ve done well, my friend.

So say your goodbyes. Then stand on the street and wave as they leave. Feel the pull. Don’t fight the grief. Let the tears flow, snot and all. Stand there until you can’t see them anymore. Acknowledge the sadness, what will be different, and all that you shared together right where you’ve lived.

Then turn around. Look at where you’re at. Yes, where you’re still at. Say hello. Reconnect. Sink your roots deeper. You’ve got people to love. And people who love you.

photo credit: @comeplum