A word of warning here: you cannot force anyone into transition rituals. This is why many of the things I do are done first for myself, and whatever my kids take to, we do, but they need to have the freedom to grieve and leave in their own way. The last thing they need is for Mom to force them into her own need for closure.
Here are a few tips that have been useful for me in the past few moves.
Take time to say goodbye this looks different in each place. I had never done this before we left Geneva, and honestly it left an open door in each place I have left behind. Geneva was the first place where I intentionally took a day to close the door on this place. I also took my time with the handful of people who were special to me there, to tell them what they meant to me and to thank them one last time. In Geneva, closure was taking a full day to go around the city and farewell the places that held meaning to me. When I got to the end of the day, I was ready to move on. In Sweden it looked very different. I made a bucket list, and working my way through the list was the process of closure that I needed. I needed to spend time with the special people, thank them, and pray with them. I needed to get photos of people who meant something to us. We had a going away party. But all of these things took time, and I needed to make space in our plans for these times. Do this for your kids as well. They also need time to say goodbye in their own way to their friends. Our son had his own bucket list, and we made sure to spend one last play date with each of their special friends, so they also got a chance to say goodbye.
Get Help this is a no brainer, and I’ve already written about it here, but I want to say it again: Say YES to help. Moving day itself and the days before and after require work you don’t even know about yet, please say yes to anyone and everyone who offers to help you.
Plan for food I had a bag of frozen chocolate muffins in the freezer for moving day, so I knew I wouldn’t need to cook. Friends brought us food for lunch, and we went to our local Thai place for dinner. When your kitchen is getting packed up, you don’t want to be using utensils or plates. Having paper plates and disposable cutlery on hand was also practical.
Leave margin don’t plan a three-day move if you can, it will likely take more time. Give yourself a day or two to clean up and throw things way, more days if you also need to sell and give things away. Whatever your time frame is, add a day or two as extra buffer. If you don’t need it, you can use it to do something fun instead.
Special moments these are the grace times in the swirl of chaos that surrounds moving. For us it was boxes of popsicles in the freezer for the kids, it was a relaxed last dinner at our Thai place (their favourite), and letting them have as many prawn crackers as they wanted. It was a trip to the beach before we left the Yellow House.
Feel your feelings instead of putting them away, let them out. I cried a lot. I cried when I walked out of the house, I cried when I drove, I cried when I thanked our landlord for our two years in his house (Husband said our relocation agent recoiled in fear when I started crying). Embarrassing? Maybe, but I would rather let my feelings out than bottle them up. When I let them out, they go away and make room for other emotions.
Rite of Passage I wrote last week about what we left behind and our Ebenezer, but I want to mention it again here. Writing down what we did not want to take with us and burying it in the ground was a significant symbol. It told me that I am moving forward, and it allowed me to be thankful for the beauty of the past two years. When I left our home, I knew that it was final. I knew the door was closed.
Wrapping Up with People
Most of the transitions in my life were negative ones. I didn’t give myself enough time to say goodbye, I didn’t realize the weight of leaving. I was eager to get out. One of the main changes I made in how I transition is in how I finish with people.
Make a list of the people who truly mean something to you, they’ve made an impact on your life, they brought you joy, these are the ones whom you will always remember with thankfulness in your heart. These are not the people who you should be spending time with, or the ones you need to see or say goodbye to. These are the people who mean something to you, the ones with whom you shared your life.
Take the time before you leave to meet with each of them. Tell them what they meant to you, tell them everything, and don’t hold back. These moments are precious, there is no reason to wait to tell someone that you love them or to share with them what they have meant to you.
Share meaningful words think about the specific ways they’ve impacted you and share those words either verbally or write them down.
Share a meaningful experience if there is something that would mean something to the friendship. It may be going to a favourite café or restaurant together or walking to the place where you met or something else that is unique to your friendship. But take the time to do it.
A special gift this is probably going to sound a bit strange, and as you know I am all for decluttering and I do not like accumulating things at all. But I love getting things from special people that they owned, so not a bought gift, but more like something from their kitchen or something they’ve worn or made. More often than not, the friend doesn’t know that I would want something, so I’ve had to ask. I took two wooden butter knives from a friend’s kitchen in Stockholm. I love these knives and love to have a reminder of her in my kitchen. Another friend in Geneva gave me one of her paintings, always a special reminder of our friendship. If there is something you would love of a friend whom you are leaving, go ahead and ask. Chances are they will be happy to part with it.
Set expectations I’ve learned this one the hard way after a lifetime of moving. It was easy before I had kids to maintain many friendships around the world via email and skype. I can’t do that anymore. The bulk of my time and energy goes toward my family, and the little I have left has to be spent cultivating a community where I am. This often means that friends from other places and seasons of life have felt neglected and excluded. I have started telling my friends when I leave, I will probably not be in touch often, but please know that you occupy a place in my life that no one else will occupy. There are a few friends with whom I will always stay in touch, and with those friends, there is a sense of ongoing, longer term friendship. But with the vast majority of other relationships, I know that if our lives move in the same direction, even with little correspondence, when we do see each other, we pick up where we left off.
Now it’s your turn: How do you say goodbye? What are your tips on wrapping up with people? With whom do you need to take some special time before you leave?