It is that time of year again - school is coming to a close for this school year. And in this missionary community the end of school also brings the end of some face-to-face friendships.
This year I have seven friends leaving - some for furlough - some for good. Problem is we will be leaving after next school year before the furloughing friends return here.
Making new friends and frequent "see-you-laters" are part and parcel of the missionary life.
There are many rich blessings to this life but the down side is frequent goodbyes.
My kids have all said hello and goodbye many times. It can break a mom's heart to see her kids deal with these frequent losses.
Dave Pollock, an authority on third culture kids (TCKs), transitions and internationally mobile families prepared a useful tool to help missionaries and TCKs with frequent transitions.
The acronymn for this tool is R.A.F.T.
Reconciliation Any transition can lend itself to wanting to ignore tensions in current relationships. We may think, "this person is leaving so why work out our differences?" But ignoring this interpersonal conflict short circuits the process of closure and makes it hard to build the rest of the RAFT. Working through conflict, forgiving and being forgiven open healthy avenues of relationship repair and also building new relationships without old resentments dampening the new friendship.
Affirmation Taking the time to acknowledge what the person(s) leaving means to you is important. When my grandma died so many people would say to me, "I wish I had told her how much she meant to me while she was still alive." I was 16 when my grandma died. Those statements impacted me to make it a point to tell people what I appreciate about them while they are alive. I heard statements like this at my dad and mom's funerals too. So I'm encouraging you and reminding myself to tell those around you how much you appreciate them. Tell your coworkers, the teachers of your children, your minister, friends, family what you enjoy, that you appreciate them, that you love them. This can be done verbally or in letter.
Part of closure is acknowledging our blessings--both to rejoice in others and properly mourn their departures.
Farewells Saying goodbye to people, places, pets, possessions in culturally appropriate ways is important if we don't want to have deep regrets later. We need to schedule time for these farewells during the last few days and weeks. I have coffee dates coming up with some friends leaving. I'll use this time to tell them verbally and in writing how they've impacted my life, that I appreciate their friendship, etc. I'll be writing notes to my children's teachers as well as this school year winds down in another 10 days. Our family plans to have some friends come for dinner before they depart the field - this is another opportunity to express appreciation and have some closure to the face-to-face time we've had.
Openly acknowledging this time as a true goodbye is important.
James has a good friend leaving for good and he will have a final play date with him this week to say goodbye. I think it's important to help kids learn these RAFT skills early on in life.
Think Destination Even as we are saying goodbye, we need to be thinking realistically about our destination. This will really apply to us next June 2016 when we move to the USA. Right now we are on the staying end of farewells. But it's important to think about where one is going. What will be positive and negative aspects we can expect once we get there? What are our support structures externally as well as our internal resources for coping with problems we might find? Who can help us adjust?
Transitions always bring chaos and confusion. This is very normal and will pass in time. Learning to say goodbyes well helps in the transitioning to the next phase/season of life.
Pray for our kids as they say farewell to friends, and for us as we say farewells too. Thanks!