Why is it so hard to say goodbye?

The Friends from the TV series

‘All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.’ – Anatole France

We have to say goodbye a lot in our lives. Not just relationships, but old homes, possessions, habits and more.

I was re-watching the TV series Friends recently. Binge watching it until the very last episode. It reminded me of the time I first followed on TV and that of another series Cheers.

It was the time we all had to say goodbye to all our favourite characters. Joey, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, Ross, and Rachel.

Even now it still gets me. Not just saying goodbye to the characters, the series, but the time in my life when I first watched it.

The story itself, in the final series all the characters were dealing with big changes in their lives.

It makes me think of all the times I have had to say goodbye and face change. Moving home, saying goodbye to work colleagues, the death of my cat.

It always gets me, I feel it in my heart area and makes me feel so much that I want and sometimes do cry.

Strong feelings can happen with anything, but it’s with people we know most of all that hurts the most. Saying goodbye to friends and family, those people we spend the most time with.

Even If we recognise the need to move on those moments can still be difficult.

So why is it so hard?

I’m not sure I can give any good answers but here’s my take on it.

We feel so much because a part ourselves is being left behind as well. We make our own identity from the things in our lives. The people, the job, our possessions, beliefs. It’s all part of the web that makes up who are are.

I’m the person that watches Friends, reads these books, likes these shows, has these friends, does this job.

Buddhism and psychology teach that we as people are nothing more than a collection of ideas that changes over time. Like the Ship of Theseus LINK, each part gets but the ship still remains.

So when it comes to giving up on that old job, our home we feel a part of is lost too. It leaves us feeling a little empty.

We have to say goodbye to individuals who have in their own way made us who we are. Possessions that are the scenery to our lives.

Of course, we don’t realise that new things will take their place, but in those moments a part of is let’s go, or destroyed.

It’s what I sometimes call. ‘The dreams in which I’m dying, are the best I’ve ever had.

A mixture of loss and triumph. Of sorrow and joy.

No change, I can’t change, I can’t change, I can’t change,

But I’m here in my mold, I am here in my mold.

And I’m a million different people from one day to the next

I can’t change my mold, no, no, no, no, no, no, no

Cause it’s a bittersweet symphony this life.

Trying to make ends meet, trying to find some money then you die.

I’ll take you down the only road I’ve ever been down

You know the one that takes you to the places where all the veins meet, yeah.

Bittersweet symphony – The Verve

It’s probably what makes change so hard to accept. The feeling of loss, of endings. We don’t want things to change because we like the things the way they are.

It’s also a feeling of something that supports us and helps us is being lost. With that gone we feel disorientated, uncertain. We are in a comfortable place and change upsets that position.

The future also becomes more uncertain and that can be scary as well. We doubt our capacity to change. To face the responsibility of our own lives and the the power we do ave.

Letting go is perhaps one of the hardest things we have to do. Our own mental wellbeing can be shattered by such events if it’s the death of a spouse or a child.

Yet in part, we know it’s necessary. We don’t want to stay as we are, we are never satisfied with what we have so week seek novelty and growth.

It’s what makes saying goodbye, change and growth such a bittersweet feeling. Destruction and creation one after the other that makes change take place.

It’s those moments of transition, however small that make our life what it is.

Yet look how conflicted we are about it. We want to cling onto what we feel is important, yet we also want to let go.

Nothing compares, no worries or cares

Regrets and mistakes, they’re memories made

Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?

Never mind, I’ll find someone like you

I wish nothing but the best for you

“Don’t forget me,” I beg

“I’ll remember,” you said

Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead

Adele – Someone like you

It’s a hard, complex feeling to describe, but we all know what it feels like.

It makes is so fascinating to me. A part of me wants to make it easier but is that wise. Perhaps it’s meant to be difficult.

It’s hard because such moments remind us of the impermanence of existence. One day it will all end, everything we have and who we are will be gone. Saying goodbye is to acknowledge that wheels turn and time passes.

It also teaches us what’s important. That we should take a little time to reflect on the fact that one day we will die. To prepare ourselves as best as we can for those moments when we have to let go.

To me, the lesson is to enjoy the moments more. Enjoy the time I have with friends, possessions, art, the world etc. Squeeze as much as I can from them in the joy, insight, knowledge they give me. It’s also help us focus on the things that matter the most, and avoid those things that don’t bring me joy.


‘Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together’ -Marilyn Monroe

I’m not sure what I wrote is an answer, perhaps there is no answer to this question. In which case it’s not worth worrying about.

How we feel about these moments can overwhelm us with emotion, which underlines their importance to us all. Yet we don’t want to stay overwhelmed, we want to move on.

It’s in those places of transition, those pivotal moments that can define. Those peculiar, complex, sometimes small, sometimes life-changing moments that fascinate me and us.

Yet how much do we really think about these things?  I just feel that maybe we should think about them more than we do. Because it’s in these moments we find common ground with each other. A reason to reach out and connect.

Never forget what these moments of goodbye mean to you. But never let them paralyse you. You still have a life to lead.

The last lesson is to remember to say goodbye, to remember to tell them how much they mean to you. Don’t look back with regret.

Just think now, the friends you have now, your family, your home and work. One day you will have to say goodbye. How does that truth make you feel about them?

What have you given up, or said goodbye to recently? How did it make you feel?

Image Credit: kladyk / 123RF Stock Photo