How to Have a Good Goodbye


When it's time to move on because of a new job, retirement, or a life change, these six things can help you say goodbye well.

Fam Pract Manag. 2018 Sep-Oct;25(5):40.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.

As I approach the end of my 25-plus years of work with family medicine, I have been reflecting on endings and the process of saying goodbye. Using the term goodbye might be a misnomer. I have witnessed some rather bad goodbyes. But a “good” goodbye is important, particularly after we have invested so much of our lives, energies, and self in a place or a relationship.

Endings are as much a part of life as beginnings. Yet at these critical transition points, life can get messy and confusing. Just as patient care can go awry during transitions, so too can our relationships and other aspects of our lives.

Endings need to be handled with some care, so I'd like to suggest six ways to say goodbye well.

1. Prepare emotionally. Before you leave, give some attention not only to financial and practical matters, such as packing up your things, but also to the emotional aspects of saying goodbye. Disinvesting from a place or a person can cause emotional snags and pains — even gaping wounds if not handled well. To lessen the pain, do some emotional prep work by having proper discussions, expressing appreciation, and clearing the air.

2. Tie up loose ends as best as you can. This includes bringing your duties to completion, teaching others what they need to know for a smooth transition, and leaving your team in as good a position as you can. Don't forget how difficult a transition in care can be for your patients — not only because of their health needs but also because of their need for support and trust. Consider any bridges you can build or introductions you can make to help your patients move forward without you.

3. Let go of regrets. I have counseled many patients who live on past regrets, which is a poor diet. Although there may be negative aspects to why you are leaving, it is best to avoid focusing on these issues unless they propel you to a better place. Instead of dwelling on regrets, celebrate what you have been given and what you have given.

4. Don't wait


Dr. McBride is director of behavioral medicine at Floyd Medical Center's Family Medicine Residency in Rome, Ga. He is a credentialed pastoral counselor and licensed family therapist.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.


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