Saying Goodbye Well

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At their core, goodbyes mark a time of transition. David Pollock, of Interaction International, gave us a wonderful acronym that helps us make the journey through the transition of goodbyes.

To make a good transition, we need to build a RAFT.

Just like four strong, foundational logs on a RAFT will take us to a new destination, a good goodbye has four core elements.


This first step may be the hardest to do well. Whether you are the one leaving or staying, you don’t want to move on and leave broken relationships behind. Doing your best to forgive offenses and seek forgiveness for your part in problems will set you up for smoother sailing, both before and after the departure. Becoming close friends with each person is not the goal here. However, do make an attempt to request and extend forgiveness, so that unresolved issues don’t have a hold on your future.


The second foundational log of our raft is affirmation. Telling those you care about what you appreciate about them helps solidify in your mind, and theirs, the value of the relationship. It summarizes in a concrete way, that can be remembered by both parties, the value and significance of the journey you had together. We are designed to play a meaningful role in community, but we often don’t take the effort to share with one another the significance of that role. Think this through in advance and be specific, even sharing examples of what you appreciate in the other person.


This log of the raft is the one that we usually think of, but sometimes actually avoid doing. It is the actual act of saying goodbye. It is a mental and verbal means of accepting and acknowledging the closure. We often think of saying goodbye to people, but we do well to also say goodbye to:

Photo by  Ibrahim Rifath  on  Unsplash
  • Experiences (like an era of working with a person, your weekly couscous, or living life at a slower pace)

  • Places (a home, a room, a city, a favorite café, a cherished vacation spot)

  • People (not just those we love, but the people who made up or daily experience, the baker, the guardian, the cashier)

  • Animals (pets, the street cats/dogs (possibly one of the more cheerful goodbyes!))


Thinking about the future is certainly part of transitions, but it can play a key role in goodbyes as well. It will help both those leaving and those being left behind to think about the future. What will this next phase look like? What can I look forward to? What will take some time to grieve? Expressing these future hopes and expectations by both parties, gives a sense of hope for yourself and for the other person. While our roles in the other’s life are changing, we can glimpse into each others’ futures and be encouraged, seeing the continuation of the journey.

Special note:  If your children are going through goodbyes (leaving or being left behind), don’t forget to gently help them walk through this process as well.