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Why Mindful Goodbyes Lead to a Life without Regrets

By Mary Jaksch

We all tend to differentiate between fleeting and significant goodbyes.

Imagine for a moment that you are just ducking down to the grocery store, or that you’re off to the office. Before you go, maybe you say goodbye to a loved one. What is that goodbye like? Most likely it’s just a fleeting wave or a peck on the cheek. Now imagine a different scenario. Imagine that you’re saying goodbye to loved one who is going overseas for a significant period. You do that differently, right? Maybe you linger in a hug or say some meaningful words. But that’s now how we conduct our fleeting daily goodbyes.

The reason we use fleeting goodbyes in daily life is because we imagine that we’ll soon be back again and resume ordinary life.

What is a goodbye?

Saying goodbye is a ritual that marks a coming separation. The function of most rituals is to mark liminal, that is, transitional times. A goodbye marks the moment where being together begins to move into being apart. As human beings, we tend to differentiate between ‘big’ goodbyes that may be forever, and the ‘small’ goodbyes of everyday. Both those goodbyes have a hidden component: they contain a blessing.

All goodbyes contain a blessing

Antiquated goodbye formulations, such as ‘fare-well’, or the even older, ‘fare thee well’ reveal that at the heart, goodbyes are blessings. We bless the other person’s going and coming, wishing that they may be well while away.

In order to make our goodbyes a blessing, all we have to do is to pay attention to the moment and create an intention of goodwill in our heart. There is no need to let the other person know what about the blessing.

How to make your goodbyes meaningful

Depending on the culture you live in, there are many ways to say goodbye. In Latin American cultures, people embrace and kiss each other goodbye. In Anglosaxon countries, people tend to be more restrained. Many people say goodbye to their loved ones with just a brief hug and a hurried peck on the cheek while their thoughts are already at work or in the shopping center.

When you hug stay close to the one you love for at least one complete in- and out-breath.

Make each hug meaningful by paying tender regard to the other person. Notice the warmth of their body and feel their breath flowing in and out. That’s a wonderful way to remind each other of your deep connection.

How to take your leave in an email

Salutations at the end of letters or emails have the same function as goodbyes. I’ve tried a lot of different closing salutations. If I’m busy, I’ll send emails signed just with ‘Mary’, or ‘M’. Sometimes I receive emails that use ‘blessings’ as a closing salutation, but I tend not to do that because I don’t like being fulsome.

I’ve recently found a way to smuggle a hidden blessing into my emails. I close with ‘be well’. This is short for ‘may you be well’ which is a loving-kindness meditation. In my heart I say the full phrase – and mean it. But I am content for my blessing to remain hidden.

Why it’s important to offer mindful goodbyes

It’s important to make each goodbye count – even if you are just ducking out to the corner store.

Each fleeting goodbye can turn out to be a goodbye forever.

Accidents happen when we least expect them. Here is an example: when I was seventeen, I went to visit my brother who was studying at Cambridge and neglected to say goodbye to my father. While I was away, my mother drove into the path of an oncoming car and my father died at the scene of the accident. As you can imagine, it was a family tragedy. I still feel regret that I didn’t say farewell to my father.

Since that time, I focus on each parting – even if I think it’s only going to be for a short time – and say goodbye in a heartfelt way that celebrates our connection.

How do you say your goodbyes?

About the author

Mary Jaksch

Mary is passionate about helping people create a happy, purposeful, and fulfilling life. She is the founder of GoodlifeZEN and also the brains behind WritetoDone.com, one of the biggest blogs for writers on the Net. Mary is also a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.