Community Conversations: Saying Goodbye
By Katie Mulembe, Catholic Volunteer Network
Community living surely had its ups and downs. There may have been times when your community members drove you crazy – but in the end it is hard to imagine going through this experience without them. Together you’ve been there to provide encouragement when the work became particularly challenging, gained new perspectives on what it means to live simply, strengthened one another through prayer, and developed lifelong friendships along the way. Now that your time together is coming to a close, you may be finding it difficult to say goodbye. Here are some ideas to ease the transition.
You can’t avoid goodbyes. Technology and social media help us stay in touch with friends and family all over the world, so it may be tempting to avoid saying goodbye to your community when you know they are just a click away. However, the digital connection will not be quite the same as the community living experience. It is important to acknowledge that the relationship, as you are experiencing it now, is coming to an end. Let your community members know that not only are they important to you, but the experience of living in community with them was also important. If you feel uncomfortable sharing your feelings in person, consider writing a letter to each of your community members.
Lean in to the moment. Goodbyes are never easy, but it is important to allow yourself to feel the sadness that is welling up inside. It is completely normal to feel a sense of grief as you come to the end of your time of service, and no matter how much you try to distract yourself from that emotion, the feeling won’t go away until you acknowledge it. If you feel tears coming up, don’t be afraid to let them out. You will immediately feel better. If you are not experiencing a deep feeling of sadness, that’s okay too, just be sure to be respectful of your community members who may be feeling that way. We all have different reactions to similar experiences. Your presence and accompaniment will help communicate your support.
Hold a community memories potluck. Community meals play an important role in building trust, interdependence, and friendship. Think back on some of the most memorable meals you’ve shared, what made them so special? During your last week together, consider holding a “Community Memories” potluck, where you each prepare a dish that you ate during one of your favorite times together. This will be a great opportunity to think back on your time together and celebrate the great times you’ve shared.
Gifts that have more meaning. Living simply has probably given you a new perspective on material possessions. As you pack up your things, is there anything that one of your community members would get more use out of? Perhaps you have a book that someone always wanted to read, or a sweater that your community member always asked to borrow. Consider passing those items along as a gift. Your thoughtfulness will be very meaningful to the one who receives the gift.
Turn your goodbyes into prayers. Take time to pray in thanksgiving for one another during one of your last community nights. This will be an excellent opportunity to honor each person for the gifts they brought to the community and acknowledge the ways that God has worked through them. You may find it easier to communicate more deeply in a prayerful environment.
In conclusion, remember that saying goodbye is never an easy task, but it is always important. We hold you in prayer during this transition time filled with celebration and sadness, grief and thanksgiving. We look forward to helping you stay connected to your service experience and your community as you transition from current volunteer to volunteer alumni!