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The one where we say goodbye.



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The following piece was originally published through my Monday Morning Email Club. To get weekly doses of encouragement, subscribe to the club here.

Sometimes I write things with the clearest picture in my mind of who I am writing them for. It’s like I can see you. You, with the red lipstick you just became confident enough to start wearing. You, the one who doesn’t really understand or see the unique and priceless thing that you are. You, the one in transition and looking for God and asking your questions. I can see you sitting there reading me. And I search the ground, sort of like I am hunting for Easter eggs, for the words I think you’d want to read.

And then sometimes I write something just so that I can go back and read it. Maybe once. Maybe twice. I write the words for myself, pretending that someone else is writing them for me. I do this strategically. I do this so that I don’t have to feel like the one who is alone– her hands full of unanswered questions– in the middle of something I don’t fully understand.

Saying goodbye and watching a friendship end is one of those things. 

I understand the notion more now than I did a few years ago but I still don’t like it. I’m no good at it. I’d rather skip that part of the story and keep everyone close forever. I don’t like missing people. And I selfishly don’t like knowing they’re growing in my absence. 

That’s the secret pain of goodbye: people still have permission to grow into their own skin without you. And that feels very strange. You don’t get to keep people, selfishly, just so you don’t have to be so fearful they’ll find a way to live without you.

The only thing I know for certain about this whole “goodbye” thing? You have to say it sometimes. You have to get real brave, and bite your bottom lip, and let people go sometimes. Fully. Even when you don’t feel ready.


You see, no one warned me about this growing up. I somehow managed to get the keys to adulthood handed to me without the guidebook that informed me I was going to lose people along the way. And not boyfriends or guys I met at parties– not that kind of loss. No one warned me I was going to lose people I never thought I’d have to let go of. Friends. People I’d shared secrets with. Individuals who I thought would always be holding the other half of the friendship locket. 


Turns out, if you are not losing friends as you grow up then you really aren’t growing up at all.

The mistake we made so many years ago when we learned about friendship was believing that every friend was meant to remain for good. That we could grow up, develop, form new world views, break up, link up, and still maintain the same friendships we had from college or grade school. Life changes us. Life shakes us up and breaks us and, as a result, the people who are in our lives change too. And that’s okay. There’s actually nothing wrong with that. But yes, I get it, it doesn’t change the fact that losing a friend is a hurt like you’ve never experienced before.

Goodbye is hard. Goodbye when you didn’t want to say it is even harder. It feels like something in the room is dead or dying or about to die. And the scary thing about that? That’s true.

Something is dying. It sounds so morbid but goodbye is really just admitting that something is dying. You two came together– for a month or for a year or for five of those years– and you built something. You breathed your whole little life into that thing. Your secrets. Your fears. Your laughter. All into that thing. That friendship thing, that “I’ve never really met someone like you” sort of thing. And then, out of nowhere, it feels like something comes along and lobs the whole thing into pieces. That’s what a goodbye will do.

There is nothing wrong with grieving the loss of someone who is perfectly alive and well in this world. And honestly, it’s what you should do. Grieving and figuring out how to daily let it go is a whole lot better than stalking that person on social or leaving the door of your soul open wide enough that bitterness and anger become permanent residents. 

Cry your tears. Write it down. Scream. Shout. Be mad. Be angry. Feel your feelings. Resent the person. Burn things. Do all of it for as long as you need to do it to let go and be okay. 


Grief is a very real thing, even when the person you are grieving posted to their stories two hours ago. 

When I lost one of my best friends, I went through every emotion you could imagine. And some you cannot begin to imagine. I cried. I laughed. I thanked God. And then I begged God to bring her back. I cussed. I lashed out at other people in place of her. I learned. I bent. I broke. I forgave. And then I forgave again. And then again. I am still forgiving and I am still learning from a friendship breakup that happened years ago.

But you want to know the most valuable thing I had to learn to do in order to be okay? 

Now, this act didn’t come instantly… it was certainly more of a 2-year process than it was an overnight acceptance. But finally, finally, I figured out how to open up my hands and release. Like a bird being released from a nest, I let her go. And I let her go hundreds of times after that first time.

When I say “I let her go,” I mean that I finally grew into the kind of person who could hear her name and not be angry, or sad, or vengeful. I became the kind of person who could say, when the thought of her came up, “It’s over. And that’s okay.” 

And eventually, I grew, even more, to be able to script a letter in my head to her. One that said things like this: thank you. Thank you for the things you taught me while you and I were close. I’m doing well and I’ve accepted that I don’t need you in my life in order to thrive. I can move forward and find myself whole without you. You can do the same. I hope you find everything you’re looking for. I hope this world treats you well. You were a blessing to me in a time where I needed you most and it’s okay that there was a deadline on our friendship. 

Now get out there and fly, just as you were always meant to. 

Get out there and fly, and I will do the same.



  1. Lydia says:

    Hannah, this post was amazing and honestly it was just what I needed to hear. I just moved schools this year and just last night was thinking about how I felt lonely. Even though I’ve made new friends at my new school and keep in contact with my two best friends from my old school. I don’t see them often, and it makes me sad. I want to be "best friends forever" but I know as I move on to my senior year and eventually college, things are bound to end with some people. Not only that, but one of my other friends has been ghosting me for months now, and I have known him since the 6th grade. It is extremely sad to me to know that the one I called my best friend just last school year, now wants nothing to do with me. I have to be okay with letting people go. I have to grieve, and move on with my life without holding on and letting their absence rule parts of my life. Because of this post I know that I am not alone with what I go through, so thank you.

    • I know that feeling. It’s hard to grapple with. But it doesn’t mean those people are out of your life forever. That’s one of the beautiful parts of technology. I don’t know if that ache of missing people ever really goes away but new people come in to take new space and it can all be really beautiful.

  2. Lp says:

    (As my eyes are filling up with tears), thank you hannah, thank you.

  3. Kelly says:

    Thank you for this. I’ve lost a friend of almost twenty years, stress turned him into an unkind stranger and he’s rejected all my attempts to help. It’s been a year, and the pain of knowing who he’s become, that I’ve lost the boy I trusted for so long, is indescribable. I appreciate your thoughtful and relatable words and look forward to, someday, when I feel the courage to fly on my own.

  4. ST says:

    There is work to do…. Been trying to let release, set free, move on, get a grip.
    Lost my brother, whom I was very close with. (Unexpected. He just died) Two years later, lost my mother unexpectedly.
    Three days after I got divorced. Just don’t know how to put things back together. I want to live again.
    Thank you so much for sharing.

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Hi, I'm Hannah

I love writing about all things faith, mental health, discipline + and motherhood. Let's be penpals!


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