i hate goodbyes

My heart has been aching for my oldest son for the past few days. He’s experiencing, again, the pain of goodbye.

Because we live abroad and all of our family is planted back in the US, goodbye is a all-to-common word. But so is hello. Only hellos take time to nurture and develop into something more substantial and goodbyes are mostly painful. Especially when you’re eight years old.

This weekend we got away and made some new friends where we were staying. Our kids swam together and had a great time playing in a giant air-filled ball in the pool and eating dinners together. After a few days my son started lamenting the fact that we only had two more days and how he wished we could stay longer or live close to these friends.  By Saturday evening he knew the time was short and had became sulky and irritable. At dinner he took out his anger on his younger brother by punching him in the leg. As such, he found himself in time-out alone for the rest of the meal.

As we all walked back to our room he opened up that he thought life wasn’t fair. And looking at us with tear-filled blue eyes he asked why do we always have to say goodbye to the friends we make? Like in February when his best friend at school moved to America. And before that when we moved to India. This is the boy who cried right along with me when we first moved here and felt so alone it hurt. He has been old enough to remember the friends and family we left behind. And quite frankly he’s tired of goodbye.

My husband’s family moved quite a bit while he was growing up and even to this day we pause and try to think where he’s “from” exactly–so he gets this to some degree. But for me, I had the opposite experience. Growing up we moved one time and it was to the house next door. I had the same friends from kindergarten until graduation. If anyone moved it was a major event. And when new people came in they had to prove they could be like us–just ask my best friend in sixth grade who adapted her Ohioan accent to sound more Southern (I have videos that could black-mail both of us and testify to this fact).

Here my son is the outsider trying to figure out where he belongs and he’s done amazingly well, but sometimes it gets to him, like it did this weekend. I don’t want him to close himself off in the future just because he’s afraid of the hurt that goodbye will cause later.

What to do? For now we have encouraged him to talk about his feelings. Cry. And grieve the loss. I wish I could tell him it gets easier, but for me it hasn’t and he’s so much like me sometimes it’s frightening. The pain of separation from the people and places I care most about is not something I can get over by getting new friends or embracing a new place.

I imagine this will be something we will dealing with for a long time to come as I’m not sure we’re the stay-in-one-place forever sort of folks. But I’m new at navigating the waters of wounded little hearts. So if you have any tips on how to make goodbyes easier I’d love to know what they are!

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4 thoughts on “i hate goodbyes

  1. Oh Kim, I feel your pain. Jon was just a little boy when he moved to our town.. The twins were younger and there were no more little ones yet. Our daughter ,Bonnie and Jon are near the same age. She has been living almost the life of a single parent because her husband has been in residency as a surgeon with the Army in Hawaii. They have been there with their 8 , 6 and 4 yr. old children for almost 5 yrs. They will be moved ,by Army, to Ft. Hood, TX. , still a foreign land, in June. They will be there 3 months and then the daddy will be deployed for 9 months to Afghan. to bind up the wounds. The 8 year old was grieving leaving the only home she remembers and her Best Friend Maddie, but God in his mercy , has sent Maddie’s daddy to Ft. Hood also. Such a personal love from God to her. I will be praying for your 8 year old. Looking for God to do something special for him. We are going to the new 6PM service at North Point on Sunday night. Love it. 1st, Sunday we visited David was the policeman that directed us to where to park and where to go. We felt that was God’s gift to us to see him again.

  2. Wow, this was timely for me, Kim! Abby is really struggling right now with such a bad attitude daily, and we leave for the US in 5 days. She should be ecstatic, but she’s completely grumpy. Why? Not because she’s sad to leave here, but because she is already sensing how short our 5 weeks there will be and can’t stand the thought of coming back. There’s no one here to miss yet.

    I was conversing (electronically) about an article on homesickness a friend who who is somewhat of an expert on third culture kids, and she had some wise words to say that I have been chewing on all week:

    “Of course there’s pain in leaving the familiar. There’s pain in being separated from those we love and who love us. There are losses piled upon losses even when you’re the one choosing to go. And one thing does not balance out the other. A new friend here does not equal a friend with more mileage somewhere else. At some point they will all mesh into the fabric of strong friendships, but during transition they don’t.

    “You’ve experienced great losses in following God to your new place. So has the rest of your family. Even Abraham has losses in moving back to India. It’s a good and healthy thing to acknowledge them as their felt.

    “It’s also good to acknowledge when God provides new things that we need–especially as answers to prayer. Start asking God for big things–a friend to eat lunch with, a friend who will one day be as good of a friend as someone in the US, feeling as at home in India as in Texas, special food surprises at the grocery store that are affordable, a care package with specific things in it. You know.

    “Yes–declaring our dependence on God to get us through transition and the bumps of everyday life is key to the process.”

    I so appreciated that part about one thing not equaling another, but eventually they work together for that good we have been promised. Even more I appreciated the part about praying big prayers. I read my kids that part, and they both said, “no way, not going to happen”. They just don’t believe that God could? would? ever answer the one about a friend as good as one in the US or to feel as at home here as in the US. So they will pray for the other things, and I will pray those for them- with them and away from them. It gave me hope that as we pray for God to meet those deep needs that only He can, eventually it will be their testimony of seeing God work on their behalf at a young age.

    No, it doesn’t erase the pain of goodbye, but for me, somehow it gives me hope that eclipses the despair that threatens me in that pain. It is hard to see them suffer through the transition (I keep thinking of labor stages when I talk about this phase in our lives, because somehow I don’t think they are unrelated….!); I have to cling to the hope in what is to come for us all as we continue in faith.

    One last thing: When I pray, I ask for the well-being of our kids for God’s glory. I somehow feel more of a strength to ask that they be well-adjusted, joyful, grateful, peaceful kids than I would if we just lived in the US. I have no claim more than anyone else to have kids that turn out well, but I beg God for this not for our own sake as parents, but also that no one be discouraged on seeing “what happened” to our kids as a result of our coming here. I hope people would, on seeing how our kids turn out, would be emboldened to take risks for God or to support loved ones who do so.

    Thank you for your candid posts. I really enjoy reading them!

    • Hey Laura- I meant to comment on this earlier, but thanks for taking the time to write and I hope you guys enjoy your time back home– albeit brief. These past couple of years have been the toughest of my life, but I know there is a reason for it all and it gives me hope in the bigger story being written.

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