The Good in Goodbyes

& the Practicality of Pain


I recently came across the quote,

“Where is the good in goodbye?” ~Meredith Willson, The Music Man

This question has been stewing in my mind for the last week or so. Here are a few of my thoughts on what makes goodbyes “good.”

1) The pain is a good sign. It makes us aware of how much we love and are loved.

Saying goodbye to loved ones is painful. If you’ve never had to say goodbye to someone you love, trust me, I have lots of personal experience in recent weeks, it certainly isn’t easy! But just because something is painful doesn’t make it bad or wrong. Pain may be extremely unpleasant but it is in fact, quiet useful. Pain lets us know something is wrong and needs attention. Growing pains let us know that our bodies are hard at work growing big and strong. Being sore after a good workout lets me know I pushed myself and the goal of my efforts, a stronger, healthier body, is being achieved. Sharp pain from a broken bone or sprained ligament reminds us to rest and take it easy so what is broken has time to heal.

 So where is pain’s practicality in the mist of goodbyes?


A friend of mine shared with me some very sage advice on this matter shortly before I left for Sicily last year. She said the more painful the goodbye, the more meaningful the person is in your life. It isn’t hard to say goodbye to someone you hardly know and haven’t spent much time with. But those we know well and who know us well, who have stuck with us through the thick and thin and love and accept us in spite of all our flaws and the mistakes we’ve made, those are the ones who cause our hearts to break when things like distance, destiny or death force us to say “adieu.”

With this in mind, I am sincerely grateful to have so many awesome people in my life who were incredibly hard to say goodbye to. With each heart-wrenching farewell I have had to make, I’ve been reminded of how grateful I am to have that person in my life. I may not have much to my name in terms of financial assets but my life is exceedingly rich on account of the vast number of amazing people I have the joy and honor of calling a friend.

With this in mind, I gladly and gratefully embrace this pain.

Put another way, if there were no pain at all in leaving, I would be a poor and pitiful soul indeed! As Alfred Lord Tennyson famously said,

“Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”


2)”Goodbyes” are good because they provide us with the space and courage to tell our loved ones how much we love them (and reminds us to do this more often!).

Aside from goodbyes making me painfully aware of how blessed I am to know the person or people I am saying goodbye to, another good thing about goodbyes is: if I haven’t been good at telling friends and family how much they mean to me, facing longterm separation from those dearest to me has awoken me to the fact I shouldn’t be waiting until one of us leaves to let him or her know how much I love them.

Several times in the last week, within minutes after having said a final farewell to a friend or family member, I realized I had more to say to that person, more hugs to give and get and more courage than ever to say what I should have been saying all along:

“I love you. You mean a lot to me, more than you realize and much more than I can adequately express with words. I am SO thankful to have you in my life. I am so blessed to have you as a friend. I am a better person because of you.”

Why did it take having to say goodbye to even begin to have the courage to say these things? And even then, I didn’t realize until after the fact this is what my heart was saying through it’s searing pain while my mouth was lost for words. This in particular is a lesson I hope will stick with me going forward. Life is short and no one has a guarantee they will still be alive and well this time next week. I don’t want to unexpectedly loose a loved one only to realize I never got around to telling them how precious they are to me.

3) Painful goodbyes are good in that they make reunions that much sweeter.

An additional  good in goodbyes is the anticipation and joy it stirs of being reunited. Some of my closest friends do not live close in proximity to me in Northern California. Now that I am here in Sicily, none do save Stephanie. All the same, when I do have the privilege of seeing these long-distance friends, the reunion is as sweet as the goodbye was painful.


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What makes a good, goodbye? How does it look to say goodbye “well”? How do you process the pain and heartache of saying goodbye to loved ones?


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