Expat goodbyes are sad and painful, but they are also an opportunity to have friends around the globe and meet them again and again. Here you’ll find tips to face goodbyes smoothly and cherish the lovely times you spent with the people you love!
Being an Expat means Hundreds of HELLOS…
…and also many goodbyes. Saying goodbye is a big fat part of expat life.
At least four times in the past two years, I had to say goodbye to a dear friend. It never gets easier; every time I say goodbye, I cry and remain sad for a couple of days.
Yet as sad as these goodbyes can be, I would never change the fact that we met. We had a lovely time together, learning from each other, making our lives better.
I always recommend my clients to establish a routine if they want to gain new valuable friendships. I also tell them to be prepared, because these meaningful friendships are often tied with goodbyes.
Either we leave, or they leave.
Still, keep this in mind: When it’s hard to say goodbye, the relationship meant something, even if it was for a short period.
Different Types of Expat Goodbyes
When we stay and they leave.
When we leave and they stay.
The goodbyes we know mean we will never see each other again.
The goodbyes with a promise that might come true.
Whatever your kind of goodbye is, there are ways to make them more manageable, bearable, and, why not, fun and endearing.
Saying goodbye to the people we love is hard, but rituals and symbolism help us cope with it and return to our day-to-day life as expats.
How to Cope with Expat Goodbyes
1.- Ritualize it baby!
Rituals are ideal for closing circles and making grief easier to deal with. Because saying goodbye to someone we love is grieving. Make sure to take your time and space to say goodbye to your important people: spend a day or many hours with them in your favorite places, cherishing your friendship, reminding good times.
2.- Say all you want to say and let them tell you what they want
We tend to say things like “Oh don’t cry!” or, “please don’t say that, you are going to make me cry!”, yet expressing how you feel and let them do the same will create an atmosphere of empathy and honesty that both parties will appreciate. Besides, you won’t have the “I wish i had told Anna what I wanted to tell her”… you will prevent regrets!
3.- Try to say your goodbyes individually.
Maybe you are planning a (or several) goodbye party (ies). Find some minutes to spend alone with the significant people in your life, tell them how you feel about leaving and what you will miss from them.
4.- Don’t “overbook” yourself during your visit.
Especially in the last days. Try prioritizing (yes, I know it is hard, especially for expats from Latin America, for example) who are you giving your time. Boundaries are essential to keep you away from insanity! I know mom can tell you that your auntie Maria (whom you haven’t seen in the last 15 years) is dying to see you again… but maybe you want to catch up a little longer with your dear friend from high school.
5.- Plan how you are going to stay in touch.
This might sound “too rational,” and you might be right… but it is also very, very helpful for you to move on and reduce the sense of loss. A spontaneous “let’s keep in touch” looses in comparison to “let’s face-time next Wednesday, what is the time difference?” 😉
6.- Be grateful for having them in your life.
Even if it is not “the ideal” way, you had the chance to share a fantastic time and memories with this friend or member of your family (or both!). Remember yourself to be grateful to them and yourself, to be vulnerable enough to open your heart to them!
Having troubles saying goodbye and coping with the challenges life abroad brings? Contact me. Now. Don’t waste another minute being overwhelmed and stuck on the hamster wheel. Click here and let’s start the road to the expat life YOU want to live!
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By your side,
Gabriela Encina is an online psychologist specialized in expat women and supports them with the guidance and tools they need to feel confident, make the best decisions for their lives, build and maintain meaningful relationships and prioritize their well-being.
Her approach is practical, solution-oriented and focused on the present.
Gabriela offers counseling to expat women in Spanish, English and German.