I’ve never liked goodbyes. When my daughter was little she would refuse even to say the word, as if by not acknowledging someone’s departure she could somehow prevent it from happening. There are days when I wish I could work that kind of magic myself.
But goodbyes, and the grief that accompanies them, are a part of life that we can’t avoid.
This week we’ve said goodbye to yet more good friends. People that we have loved, laughed and shared life with, and who are now off to start a new chapter in another part of the world. It happens, all the time. For some it’s a temporary farewell, because we know that one way or another, we will see them again. But we don’t know how many years that might take, and we will miss them. They take a part of our hearts with them.
It hurts to say goodbye. And sometimes a little voice whispers that it would safer to love less; to not invest pieces of my heart in friendships with people who will inevitably leave; that this sadness and sense of loss is my own fault and that perhaps I should have guarded my heart better. And I certainly won’t cry, because that would be silly.
In some cultures people know how to grieve well. I suspect that some of us have lost touch with that a bit. We treat grief of all kinds like an illness, something mysterious that you need to get over as quickly as you can and avoid wherever possible.
And yet grief isn’t a malfunction. It’s not a sign that something is broken and need fixing. It’s actually the reverse. It’s a sign that you have done what you were supposed to do, a medal of honour to say that you have loved.
CS Lewis wrote this: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.” Grief is a risk we take when we love.
I’m reminded of this from Ecclesiastes:
This is how life is. Goodbyes and grief happen. There are seasons where weeping and mourning and perhaps even anger are the appropriate emotions to feel and to express. But I love that this piece of poetry also sparkles with hope. There will also be seasons of healing and building, laughing and dancing to come, at the right time.
So that’s the postcard of the moment. When you’re mourning, for whatever reason, you may not want to do it loudly, but do it without shame.
Wear it as a medal of honour – I have loved.