How Do You Say Goodbye?

How do you say goodbye to someone you love dearly and didn’t know you’d never see again?

A couple of months ago, my family and I were at King’s Cross Station in London. My 21-year-old daughter was taking a connection to Leavesden, the studio where the famous Harry Potter movies were filmed.

It was a huge day for her, an ardent Potter fan, a longed-for moment that had finally arrived.

As she prepared to leave, I held her in a tight hug and said: “I’m so happy for you. Have a wonderful time, sweetheart.”

My husband who was watching us, chuckled and remarked that I was behaving as if she were traveling across the ocean to faraway lands.

It must have been the day: July 7, 2015. Two years ago this day, the London bombings had claimed 52 innocent lives and injured many more. So, as I stood there and waved to my daughter who was getting on a train, I thought of the significance of goodbyes.

All those men and women who had left home that morning must have said their usual goodbyes, never questioning or wondering for a split-second if it might be their last goodbye to a loved one.

I wonder what that last goodbye looked like, felt like. Was it a husband’s dutiful peck on the cheek to a wife who had bits of morning breakfast on her clothes as she fed their two-year-old? Did he say an absent-minded bye, pulled into the world of morning emails already? Did a daughter wave limply at her mother as she chatted on the phone with her boyfriend who was calling to make up after last night’s silly squabble? Or did a mom who was late for work have to extricate herself hastily from the clutches of her toddler in the throes of separation anxiety?

How do you say goodbye?

Do you rush the kids out the door, anxious they’ll miss the school bus–before you pause to look into their eyes and say I love you?

Are you texting and messaging as you step out the door and saying a ‘See ya later’ on autopilot?

It’s all too easy to miss the moment. Multi-tasking, delightful distractions and future concerns all take us away from this moment right here: holding a loved one’s hand, lingering a few moments longer in a bear hug or sharing that kiss in a deeply-felt way.

What would the loved ones of those who died in the London bombings do differently–if they could have a do-over?

Unfortunately, we don’t always get a do-over. So let’s squeeze the moment for all that it offers.

Here’s how you can say a meaningful goodbye. And if for some reason it’s your last, you’ll feel comforted knowing it was the best goodbye you had to offer.

  • Drop into your body and become fully present. Be aware of your breath. Breathe in the smell of cologne, perfume or coffee emanating from your loved one as you hug them.
  • Really look into their eyes and say I love you.
  • Appreciate them for something they said or did for you.
  • Smile as you wave goodbye.

It’s the moments that make the memories. What we failed to say or do has the power to haunt us for a lifetime.

Do it right. Now.



  1. Ginny Brock Author of "By Morning's Light" on September 15, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    So important, Uma.

    I remember standing in the railway station in Springfield, Virginia and sharing our last good bye with my son, Drew. Neither of us knew tat it would be the last time we would hug each other and saying, “I love you.”

    In fact I so didn’t want to let him go that I said, somewhat desperately, as he walked waving through the turnstyle gate, “Should I come to the train with you?”
    He laughed, “No, Mom!” (I’m not a baby implied.)
    And I watched, for the last time, as he walked out of sight.

    Hug them when they leave, hug them with overflowing gratitude when they come home.

    • on September 15, 2015 at 5:58 pm

      Thanks, Ginny, for sharing this beautiful anecdote. You have lived through this moment I speak about, so it’s very precious that you chose to underscore the importance of goodbyes for us all.

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