Insights with Emily: Saying goodbye

By Emily Salerno-Oswald
Scriptural Columnist

Well, it’s that time of year. The semester is coming to an end, and we are all about to go our separate ways for the summer.

Some of us will be graduating and will not be returning to Franciscan in the fall. Others will be saying goodbye to those who graduate.

Almost all of us will be saying goodbye to someone soon (even if it is just for the summer).

What is the best way to say goodbye? Is there a “best” way?

Many times, people try to soften the blow by saying things like, “This is not goodbye forever” or by replacing the word, “goodbye” with, “see you later.”

Some people become emotionally overcome by the concept of goodbyes, bursting into tears or long, drawn-out hugs, not wanting to let go. Others respond in the opposite way, emotionally detaching from those they have to say goodbye to, convincing themselves that they won’t actually miss them or simply not thinking about the fact that they are going to have to confront saying goodbye eventually.


I’m convinced that the best way to say goodbye is to enter into the goodbye, to let it take its course — whatever that may look like — but not to be overcome by it. This sounds good on paper, but it can be very hard to do.

It can be helpful to think about a concept that St. Ignatius of Loyola and many other saints were very well-versed in: detachment. In the book of Ecclesiastes, we read that everything in this life is temporary; it all changes and passes.

God is the only constant. Everything else comes and goes with the purpose of bringing us one step closer to Him.

Everyone we walk with and everyone who walks with us for the short time we have with them is a gift given to us that we may journey together toward Jesus. It all starts and ends with him; the reason for it all is him.

Perhaps God lets us lose things and allows things to pass away so that we’ll come to know that he is the only one we’ll never lose. We must not hold onto anything of this world more tightly than we cling to him.

Goodbyes are a part of life, and even the apostles had to say goodbye to Jesus, whom they loved so dearly. How did Jesus address this goodbye, before he ascended to Heaven?

First, Jesus promised to send his Holy Spirit to the apostles to serve as their comforter. Second, Jesus commissioned the apostles to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19).

This concept is literally part of Franciscan University’s mission statement (forming and sending forth “joyful disciples”). If we all were to stay here on this little hill, we’d be keeping the light of Christ to ourselves! What good would that be?

Third, Jesus promised that he would always be there for his apostles, even if they can’t see him or if he feels far away.

Jesus said, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt 28:20).

Lastly, the apostles received a promise that Jesus will return.

Christ extends to us everything he promised to the apostles when we go through changes and goodbyes in life. He promises to send the comfort of the Holy Spirit, the assurance that He goes with us and will provide for our needs, the challenge to view loss as an opportunity to help others grow closer to God and the hope that we will all be reunited once again at the end of time.

With all of this being said there is no easy way to say goodbye and no way around doing it. If you don’t enter into the goodbye or if you pretend it’s not happening, you will regret it.

Accepting the goodbye and all the messy emotions that come with it is the best way to move on and to move past the goodbye. Letting yourself feel sad or even grieve is like letting yourself acknowledge the goodness of what you had.

This is so important. It’s almost like saying “thank you”. Acknowledging a goodbye is acknowledging a good thing that deserved a proper send-off.

Give your goodbyes their due. Acknowledge the good relationships God has blessed you with and don’t discount their goodness just because they are ending or going in a different direction; rather, honor and celebrate their goodness.

See them for what they are and trust that there is much, much more good that the Father has for you up ahead.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens … He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11).