Training: Week Three—Grief and Loss and Good-byes

I returned from training a few days ago, and I’m still processing all I learned. It was truly an amazing three weeks, and I already miss my community of new friends.

We spent the last week of training talking about grief and loss, hellos and good-byes. The life of a missionary is full of hellos and good-byes, and grief and loss are a true reality as missionaries prepare to leave for the field. I know that I have been grieving since the summer, mourning the loss of so many things I love about my life—moving from my city and condo, leaving my job, saying good-bye to my favorite cafes, hangouts, and dear friends. In a few weeks, I’ll be saying good-bye to my beloved family and my closest friends. Sometimes thinking about it is unbearable, but I’m determined to embrace the good-byes and to live into them. It is a part of being a missionary. It is a part of life.

By loving, we take risks. If we didn’t love, good-byes wouldn’t hurt so much. But life is full of risks, and choosing to love others is always worth the risk. When it came to hellos and good-byes, I used to feel like Charlie Brown, who in his typical depressed and despairing state, sang woefully about why life couldn’t be filled with more hellos and less good-byes. 

Earlier this year, I began to change my perspective.  A sermon my rector, Father Leigh Spruill, preached has challenged me to live into the good-byes, to see saying good-bye as ministry. (I invite you to download and listen to the sermon, “Saying Goodbye Is a Ministry.”) Without his sermon, I think I would have been tempted to gloss over the many good-byes in my life with words, such as, “I’ll see you soon. We’ll be in touch. The time will fly by.” They are well-meaning words, but they dull the reality of the loss by not truly acknowledging it. Instead, I’m trying my best to acknowledge the loss, to name what I will miss about the person, and to voice my blessings and well-wishes for him or her in the future. It is a hard discipline, and I often want to cower; but with God’s help, I’m determined to say my good-byes well. Please pray that my last few weeks at home will be full of beautiful good-byes.

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