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!