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Learning to Say Goodbye Without Embarrassing Myself

On a crisp Wednesday morning, before the neighborhood came alive with jackhammers and honking horns, I hugged my parents goodbye and watched their black sedan roll out of sight.

After having them nearby for two glorious months, I didn't like watching them go. But as they pulled away, I smiled and reminded myself to be thankful: thankful for their time here, thankful for all the fun we'd had, thankful for the privilege of a temporary goodbye.

And then I went for a walk.

Ultimate Reminder #1: Whenever you need to clear your head, go take a walk as soon as you can.

As I learned again last Wednesday, it's impossible to pout and power-walk at the same time. Especially when it's about 35 degrees out and you're not dressed for it.

Even when I am dressed for it, I have never been all that big on goodbyes. My oldest brother left home when I was ten, and though I barely blinked when he left, I couldn’t stop blinking—as in blinking back tears—at the end of that (crisp) fall weekend when my mother and I flew out to see him at his new school.

We'd been having so much fun. I couldn’t understand why my mom and I had to get back on the plane without my big brother, why all our laughs and silliness had to end. (In case you're wondering, I'm over it.)

Ultimate Reminder #2: Give yourself permission to cry.

Being half Italian, I have no trouble doing this. But I've learned not to overdo it, if that makes sense. Some tears are downright necessary and others are just plain indulgent. My friend Gail calls this "sobbing it up." Gail is German.

For a good fifteen minutes after my parents left, I wasn't shedding a tear. Wasn't planning to. But then came an email from a friend I'll call Connie. Connie is one of the few friends with whom I can discuss both religion and politics. She said she had some not-dire news to share, and she wanted to share it in person.

What if she's moving?? Bwah.

There was no reason to think my dear friend was moving, but tell that to my tear ducts. Sounds like a song by Tammy Wynette. Letting it all out felt better than a power-walk—and I couldn't help noticing it took less time.

I wrote back to Connie and told her I was looking forward to her news. Unless she was moving. (Insert nervous winky face.)

Here's a tip: When someone neither confirms nor denies that something's true, that usually means it's true.

By the time Connie and I met on Friday, I knew I could handle whatever she had to tell me. Good thing. Because guess what? She's moving. Moving out of state. We had a good laugh about the fact that I had nailed it.

Though there's not time to get into it here, someone else I've long admired and cared about had told me the day before that he's moving.

At some point you just have to laugh. And trust you're going to be fine, for crying out loud.

Ultimate Reminder #3: Trust that goodbyes are not the end of the story.

Think back to your own goodbyes: moving on from high school, for example, or moving away to college. Leaving behind a career or community. At the time, it probably felt as though the world was ending.

But some of the friends, clients, and co-workers you left behind are still in your life—and they're in your life in ways you could not have imagined back when you said farewell. Shout-out to all the old friends, co-workers, and Jaycee buddies who are reading this Monday-Morning Pep Talk.

Even after the roughest goodbyes, life has a way of surprising us with newfound joy. I know this from my own life and from the lives of those around me. In the wise words of my friend Jen, "Only the end of the world is the end of the world."

As I wrap up this story, I have a random childhood flashback to my late Aunt Thresa sitting at the family piano, pounding out the theme to "The Goodbye Girl"—all soulful and swoopy in ways that make children's eyes roll. And for the first time all day, I burst out laughing. Sweet mother of my Lord, I needed that.

What do you need most this week? Laughter? A good cry? A long walk? Whatever you need to put the wind back in your sails, I wish you plenty of it.

Photo of Gina DeLapa

Gina DeLapa is America's Ultimate Reminders® Coach, a sought-after speaker, and the proud creator of the Ultimate Reminders® book series. Her wise and witty reminders ("Beware the organization whose response to a burning building is to form a committee") will make you laugh, stir your soul, and inspire your best. If you're not already getting her free Monday-Morning Pep Talk, be sure to sign up now at UltimateReminders.com/mondaymorningpeptalk.