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  • Valérie Besanceney

Grateful Goodbyes



"Before diving into this new adventure, she needs to make sure she can properly say goodbye to this part of her life.” B at Home: Emma Moves Again (p.20)


So off we go. Four more days and then we embark on a two-year sabbatical from our current teaching jobs. This is the first time I am going through the process of goodbyes with my own family. Not as a child with my parents, not as a young adult, but as a wife and mother of two daughters.

As we say our goodbyes, I keep thinking back to wise words of a woman who was a stranger not long ago, but who I now consider a dear friend. The most meaningful way to say goodbye is to express gratitude.


She also told me that our stories are most meaningful to others when we speak from our scars, and not from our wounds. And during this transition of my own and our family, I had hoped I would do it ‘all right’, not just ‘alright’. After all, part of who I have become is someone who passionately hopes to help others, and their children, thrive through transitions. And now, coming towards the end of almost a decade in one place, and in the middle of ‘transition’, I am quickly learning that striving to do it ‘all right’ will only end up in disappointment. I can only try to do the best I can, which might be somewhat right, but there is no ‘all right’. The picture perfect postcard of goodbye, with all the right goodbyes, goodbye gifts and going away parties doesn’t really exist. And it shouldn’t. Transition, by its nature, is messy.


Having been thrown into the sea of change myself, together with my family, all swimming and staying afloat in our own ways at our pace, I have humbly been reminded how incredibly challenging it all can be. This means we are all hurting as we say goodbye, and we all get excited about what lies ahead. Rarely at the same time. All of our individual hurt and excitement surfaces at different moments for each of us, often unexpected. The beauty of everyone dealing with it at different times is that we usually can support each other when one of us struggles more at any given moment. But sometimes we cannot. And that as much as we want to do transition ‘right’ and ‘do right by oneself and others’, transition is a bumpy road with potholes. Wounds are inevitably created while we hope to speak from only scars.


We are taught to build our RAFT (Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewell, and Think Destination) and we know how important it is, but not all reconciliations go as planned as there are always two sides to a story. During our affirmations and farewells we find some of them to be received or reciprocated in a way we hadn’t anticipated or expected. Just as we find ourselves surprised when we didn’t think we needed to affirm anything with someone, but suddenly realize what a great person they are, and we are left wondering why we didn’t spend more time with that person in the first place. And ‘thinking destination’ is often put on the back burner, especially when we are not entirely sure what or where it may entail.


So let me put aside the wounds of yet another farewell that are still open, and give them time to heal, and reflect on the scars. Those that tell the stories of yet another chapter in life, and I firmly believe that scars rock! They may be a reminder of what was once a hurt, but hurts can come from good and bad places. No matter how they were created, they are all a testimony of what we have lived through, and survived through, and have hopefully thrived through.


As I take some time to reflect on what has been, let me say thank you for what has been. Thank you to those who enriched our lives, whether personally or professionally. Thank you to those who have offered me deep and meaningful friendships that will last not just despite some of the times we went through together but because of them. Thank you to those who offered temporary friendship, that perhaps isn’t meant to last, but still brought or bring me comfort at the time. Thank you (huge shout out) to those who provided our children with childhood memories of laughter and joy and contributed to their love of learning. Thank you to those that have challenged my beliefs and sense of identity, only to find them strengthened after being shaken. Thank you to those who have shared my passion to help others through their transitions and helped me foster some added resilience to thrive through yet another transition.


Who knows where life will take us next, and although some plans involved are set in concrete (quite literally), others will take shape as time passes. For now, I treasure the opportunity to be together as a family and having time just be together, to continue writing new chapters, and to dive deep into transitions.

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