How to Say Goodbye

Often, people avoid goodbyes because they find them uncomfortable. However, adopting this habit can be really dangerous for our emotional health and that of others.
How to Say Goodbye
Ebiezer López

Written and verified by the psychologist Ebiezer López.

Last update: 30 November, 2022

Saying goodbye can be a difficult experience for various reasons. In fact, some even prefer to completely avoid it. However, goodbyes are necessary to close cycles or certain episodes in our lives.

Unfinished business can leave emotional traces that continue to affect you, regardless of the time that may have passed. Therefore, understanding how to say goodbye to someone is necessary to end and overcome difficult situations.

Fortunately, it’s a skill that can be learned with practice. In this article, we’ll provide you with some ideas for saying goodbye in a healthy way. Although it’s a process that’ll never be easy, it’ll always be beneficial for your emotional health.

The importance of knowing how to say goodbye to someone

Family, friends, and romantic relationships can all end at some point for various reasons. Depending on how close the bond is, these breaks could affect you in various ways. Indeed, breaking a tie with someone is an event that initiates a grieving process for the loss of an emotional connection.

In these instances, the same thing happens as when a loved one dies. Moreover, it’s been shown that when grief isn’t processed in a healthy way, it can lead to other disorders. For example, the individual may experience an anxiety attack or depressive episodes. So, learning how to say goodbye to someone is necessary to avoid these kinds of experiences.

Schwörer, Krott, and Oettingen (2020) conducted research on the consequences of not saying goodbye properly. They claimed that saying goodbye in a healthy way reduces negative emotions and feelings of regret, and makes it easier to accept change. Therefore, it can be said that goodbyes are necessary.

However, for some people, the idea of saying goodbye to another is complicated and generates feelings of rejection. It’s associated with unpleasant emotions, such as sadness or anger. But, postponing the goodbye indefinitely prevents those feelings from being processed, and they continue to have an effect even after the relationship is over.

Next, we’ll give you some recommendations for saying goodbye to someone. They’ll help you close the cycle with the aim of moving forward and encountering new experiences.

Man sitting on a swing alone

Tips for saying goodbye to someone

All this theory is fine, but how do you put it into practice? In reality, it isn’t easy nor can it be done without prior reflection. Here are our tips.

1. Don’t act on impulse

Ending a relationship with someone is something you should think about carefully. For instance, it’s not a good idea to do it when you’re feeling certain emotions, such as anger or disappointment. You must evaluate if ending the tie is the best action for you to take. If, after reflecting on it, you conclude that the relationship is only causing you pain and there’s no way to fix it, it may be time to say goodbye.

2. Find the right time and place

For a goodbye to occur in the most peaceful and healthy way, you must choose the right time and place. It’s essential that you have time to speak calmly and to do so in a place where there are no (or at least minimal) interruptions. It’s not appropriate to have these types of conversations if you’re really busy or in crowded places where there’s no privacy.

3. Be honest and assertive

Another fundamental aspect of saying goodbye involves honesty. We’re not only talking about being honest when talking to others, but also to yourself. You should take the time to reflect on what you feel about the situation. Then, you’ll know what you need to say to them to end the relationship.

In addition, assertiveness allows you to express yourself with respect, both toward yourself and the other person. It means you can communicate a message clearly, without the need to turn it into an insult or attack. Doing the latter could generate reactions from the other that might lead to an argument. In turn, this would give rise to other feelings and processes that make it more difficult to grieve.

4. Accept your emotions, even the unpleasant ones.

Saying goodbye to someone can feel liberating at first. However, sometime later, it’s likely that other emotions such as anger, sadness, or disappointment that are all part of the process arise. These kinds of feelings, even though they aren’t pleasant, still need their space.

Don’t try to suppress your emotions or ignore them because this can bring other complications. In fact, problems managing anger, depressive symptoms, or anxiety crises are related to unprocessed conflicts.

5. It takes time

To overcome grief in the best way, you require time and space. Don’t try to act like things will change overnight or that everything is perfect. Although you may have made the best decision, even so, it won’t necessarily be easy to adapt to your new situation. Go at your own pace and try to give yourself the time you need to accept the changes.

Worried woman looking out the window

6. Go to therapy if you need to

Goodbyes can be complex. For example, when it’s not possible to say goodbye to a person because they’re not physically present. In these cases, a psychologist or psychotherapist may use different techniques to allow you to obtain closure. In addition, it’s also useful to learn strategies to help manage the emotional pain of parting.

Finally, knowing how to say goodbye to someone is a key factor for your own mental health. Indeed, life is full of moments when it’s necessary to let go and say goodbye. Denying this reality will only cause you suffering. Instead, accepting it as something natural and doing it properly will contribute to your personal development.

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  • Schwörer, B., Krott, N. R., & Oettingen, G. (2020). Saying goodbye and saying it well: Consequences of a (not) well-rounded ending. Motivation Science, 6(1), 21.
  • González, L. G., & Kasparane, A. G. (2009). Asertividad: un análisis teórico-empírico. Enseñanza e investigación en psicología14(2), 403-425.
  • Díaz, T., & Turrent, M. (2015). ¿ Me quedo o me voy?: Reflexiones para decidir continuar o terminar una relación de pareja. Grijalbo.
  • Zeelenberg, M., van der Pligt, J., & de Vries, N. K. (2000). Attributions of responsibility and affective reactions to decision outcomes. Acta Psychologica104(3), 303-315.
  • Millán-González, R., & Solano-Medina, N. (2010). Duelo, duelo patológico y terapia interpersonal. Revista colombiana de psiquiatría39(2), 375-388.

The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.