Plan an appropriate time to talk before the departure. If someone you know is leaving for several years to go overseas, or leaving for college, it can be a stressful and hectic time while they’re planning a trip. Set up a definitive time and place to meet and say goodbye. Likewise, prioritize your goodbyes if you’re the one doing the leaving. Don’t make plans with people you don’t really care about saying goodbye to and forget to see your sister.
- Choose an enjoyable location––maybe over dinner, or strolling your favorite neighborhood, or spending time together doing something both of you have always enjoyed, like watching a game.
Talk about the good times you’ve had. Recount your funniest stories, reminisce about happy things. Dig deep into your past: the things you’ve done together, the things that happened while you were friends, the time you have spent together, maybe even how you met.
- Don’t start the goodbye the second you get into the room. Gauge the person’s attitude about leaving, or about your leaving. If it’s a trip they’re not looking forward to, don’t spend the whole time asking them questions about their deployment. If they’re excited, don’t spend the whole time bumming them out by telling them how much everyone will miss them. If your friends are jealous of your job opportunity in France, don’t spend the whole time bragging about it.
Be open and friendly. It’s important to establish the standing of the relationship. If you want to keep in contact, let them know. Exchange email, phone, and address information.
- Asking for an e-mail address or phone number can be comforting, so that you can still talk with them, but also be honest. If you have no intentions of staying in touch, don’t ask for contact details. It can leave a departing friend wondering about your sincerity.
- Make sure your family members are all up to date with your location and status, and that you’re up to date about them before either one leaves. It’s important to not give anyone the impression that you’re withdrawing or disappearing.
When it’s time to leave, make it brief and sincere. Most people don’t enjoy a long, drawn-out goodbye, but make your goodbye personal. If you need to express complicated feelings, consider writing them in a letter for the person to read later. In person, keep things light and fun. Hug, say your piece, and wish them luck in their journey. Don’t overstay your welcome.
- If you’re leaving for a long time and can’t take everything with you, giving stuff away can be a nice gesture and solidify a relationship. Let your band buddy hang onto your old guitar while you’re gone, or give your sibling a meaningful book they’ll remember you by.
Follow up. Stay in touch if you’d made plans to stay in touch. Talk on Skype or write funny postcards. If you gradually lose touch with a friend or loved one you sincerely would like to hear from, make an extra effort. If it seems as if your friend as become too busy, try not to get too upset. Let things drift back together naturally.
- Keep your expectations for communication realistic. A friend going to college will make new friends and might not be able to keep up a weekly phone exchange.