Goodbyes…Grief…and a Blessing


Goodbye…it’s such a simple word.  Yet, the word goodbye can signify everything from a temporary separation to a permanent ending.  Goodbyes can be said at the close of a telephone conversation, at the completion of a shared experience such as lunch out or an evening sporting event, or at the conclusion of the Sunday morning worship service.  The word goodbye can be a simple send off to one we love as they head out the door to work or school in the morning.  “Goodbye for now…I’ll see you this evening.”


Other goodbyes denote more permanent endings—everything from a child moving out of the home to get married or go away for college to retirement or being laid-off from a much loved job; from separation or divorce to the death of a loved one.  With these goodbyes we often experience deep feelings of loss.  We may even wish to stop the process, for these goodbyes fill us with profound sadness at the loss of something or someone that has given meaning and value to our lives.  Loss brings us face to face with the ending of what was, it opens up feelings of emptiness and it leaves us with the uncertainty of venturing forth into an unknown future. 


In any circumstance of loss it is helpful to recognize and honor your feelings.  Talk about them with someone who can be trusted to listen and care.  Reminisce over moments that were especially meaningful to you and allow yourself to lament what you are loosing.  You may wish to document your experience—recording physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual observations—in a daily journal.  People sometimes find healing through creative expressions of emotion such as drawing or painting, writing poetry or composing music.  Some find prayer and scripture reading supportive.  And still others need to simply sit with their sorrow.  Each person’s experience of grief and healing is unique.  Listen to your heart’s longing and take the time to honor it whenever circumstances present you with an experience of loss. 


Especially serious losses, such as the death of a child or spouse, can take many months and even years to grieve.  When you find yourself or someone you care about experiencing a particularly profound loss be especially aware that grief moves in waves of intense and less intense emotion.  Allow yourself and others freedom to flow with that movement.  Be aware that grieving saps your energy and previously minor stresses may suddenly feel overwhelming.  Take on only as much as you feel capable of coping with.  Seek both practical and emotional support from those with the capacity to provide assistance and compassion.  People are often surprised and distraught when family members do not provide sought after emotional support forgetting that their family members too may be grieving.  In such cases friends, pastors, professionals and grief groups may be helpful alternatives.  As much as possible, refrain from judging yourself and your grieving process…show yourself the same care and compassion you seek from others.


Joyce Rupp in her little book, Praying our Goodbyes, speaks of the original meaning of the word goodbye and the blessing that goes with it.


            The word goodbye—originally “God-be-with-ye” or “Go-with-God”

—was a recognition that God was a significant part of the going. 

When you dreaded or feared the journey there was strength
in remembering that the One who gave and cherished life would be

there to protect and to console.  Goodbye was a blessing of love,
proclaiming the belief that if God went with you, you would never be

            alone, that comfort, strength and all the other blessings of a loving

            presence would accompany you.  To the traveler it meant: “We

            cannot keep you from this journey.  We hurt deeply…you have made

            your home in our hearts.  Yet, we know your leaving is essential for

            your growth.  So go, go with God.  May you always rest in the

            assurance that ‘God will lead you, will be with you, will not fail you

            or desert you.  Have no fear.  Do not be disheartened by anything’

            (Dt. 31:8).”




                                                                        Debbie Kohler