The Art of Saying Goodbye: Leaving Without Regrets


When I left Brazil for the life I now have I didn’t leave well. In wanting to hold on to my fond memories, I decided not to say goodbye to anyone. After all, what would a “high dose of sentimentality accomplish anyway,”  I reasoned.  So I walked out of the only life I had ever known without much ado. It’s been decades since that time. I have never stop regretting it.

The Art of saying goodbye how to leave without regrets

There’s an art to saying goodbye.  Whether you’re walking away from a job, a relationship or moving away, there are a few things you should consider. I wish I had thought about them long ago:

Celebrate the good times. Even if leaving was not your idea, or you’re finally able to walk away from a bad situation, or you’ve had enough from your jerk of a boss, take inventory and celebrate what you can. Most relationship, (and yes, work is filled with relationships) have taught you life-lessons that you should be thankful for. Catalog them in your mind, share them with those you’re partying ways. They’ll never forget it; you’ll never regret it.

Be gracious. I didn’t want people to make a big deal of my leaving. I though I was doing them a favor. As it turned out, I deprived my friends of a kindness they wanted to bestow on me. I stopped them from blessing me and in turn being blessed themselves. As uncomfortable that it might be for you, allow those who care and love you to express their love and affection as you transition. Being gracious means accepting someone’s gift of kindness without reservation. Let them say goodbye.

Don’t burn bridges. Fight the urge to let them know how you really feel. There will be other opportunities in the future for that conversation. But as you part ways, try to walk away quietly, gently and with integrity. Leaving a relationship, a job or a group is already an emotionally-charged experience by nature. Don’t let those emotions rob you of a future reconciliation or restoration. I have yet to talk with someone who said “I wish I had give them a piece of my mind when I left.” Most people regret saying too much and not forgiving enough.

What have you learned when saying goodbye?

  • What a great post. When transferred colleges unjust packed up and left. I didn’t hang out with my roommate, friends at the dorm, or say much to those I shared studying for our degree. It wasn’t right because they wanted to hang out with a friend they wouldn’t see for a while.

    I did it just to show I was ready to go which of course made them think I didn’t care much.
    Great thoughts

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  • ksernel

    This is an interesting post to me because this month, on the 18th, I celebrated my 2 year "anniversary" of leaving the Corporate Finance world for different opportunities. When I left, I did it wrong. I still regret it today, but for slightly different reasons than you mentioned. I regret my leaving because I never told anyone I worked with at the time, the real reason for my decision

    Looking back, I wish I communicated to my very difficult bosses that they drove me away from the industry. I wish I could have found the courage at that time to be honest, in a compassionate, grace-filled way. I think if I had been able to communicate the truth of my departure with grace, there would be more closure surrounding my entire experience.

    Regardless, it was a very emotional time when I left. Lots of uncertainty on my part, tackled by a huge leap of faith. From my co-workers perspective, my leaving must have appeared out of no where and maybe they were hurt by it. If I had told the truth to my bosses at the time, maybe it would have come out all wrong. Maybe it would have be too wrought with strife and anger. I suppose I'll never know, but maybe God protected me from finding out.

    I continue to move past these feelings of regret; they are present, but much weaker over time. The lesson I learned is really that if I had been honest from the beginning with the people who were so difficult, the entire end result may have been different. I never set the boundaries with my employer and now I know that was the mistake from the beginning. Lesson learned, I suppose, and at least there's no regret in that.

    • In my experience by the time you're so frustrated or uncomfortable to leave a position, it's too late to help them change by letting them know your heart. By the time you give your notice, too many emotions are at stake: yours, your boss's, your coworkers and it's difficult to separate all of those from the real reason of your departure.

      You're right about setting boundaries early on. I had the same problem with a previous employer. I accepted a lot of bad behavior that deteriorated over the years to the point I had to leave. I own the fact that I allowed that to go on.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing from your heart.

  • "I deprived my friends of a kindness they wanted to bestow on me." This was a lesson that I had to learn in my early 30s. I always tried to duck away from these kinds of situations and one day an elderly pastor sat me down and said "Son, do you realize when you do things like brush off someone blessing you that you're denying them the blessing of service?" He went on to show me places in the world where people were grateful and celebrated the blessing of service. It was a powerful lesson and now I make a point to allow people to experience the blessing of blessing others.

    And BTW…when I read that it's been "decades" since you left Brazil, it blew me away. I didn't think you were old enough to have been gone "decades" by your own choosing.

    • Jason, I knew I liked you a lot! I'm not sure how old you think I am, but I'm probably old enough to be your dad.

      • LOL…I hit 40 in three weeks so I doubt you're that old. I honestly thought you were younger than me.

  • Richard_Westley

    Well said. I'm leaving my church of 7 years to go lead another in 2011. I've been thinking about how I can creatively say goodbye to everyone (50 people on staff). No solid thoughts just yet, but this post is getting the juices going.

  • What a great post. When transferred colleges unjust packed up and left. I didn't hang out with my roommate, friends at the dorm, or say much to those I shared studying for our degree. It wasn't right because they wanted to hang out with a friend they wouldn't see for a while.

    I did it just to show I was ready to go which of course made them think I didn't care much.
    Great thoughts

  • I didn't have to graduate college before I started watching people failing to leave well.

    I was in an internship program the summer after my junior year and within a 2 week timeframe the store manager, HR rep and my management "sponsor" left the company without a word goodbye to anyone.

    Thanks for sharing the sound advice.

    P.S. This is sparking an idea for a post on "The Art of Saying Goodbye" when I leave for work each day. What/how am I leaving my family as I walk out the door?

    • At my house that's an easy one. I always leave my family asleep. I'm out of the door usually by 5:15 a.m. 🙂

  • I left my first job in a vague way not unpleasant though. I wish i tried to stay connected with the people there but sometimes even if you want to remain good friends some people doesn't seem to have the same intentions.

    • It's difficult to determine people's intentions and yes sometimes they are not as pure as yours, but for every one of those, there are several people who truly want to stay connected. Ultimately you can only control your attitude and intentions and that's all that should matter anyway.

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  • kyle

    well said

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