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Four Things To Know About Saying Goodbye to a MilTeen

1. We might not cry... right away

Military teens have a lot of rituals around goodbyes. We hug. We promise to message. We…cry?

Or maybe not. I find that often, my tears don’t materialize. It’s not that I don’t cry in general; I’m quite an emotional person. Most of my favorite books have made me cry, and nothing makes me feel whole again like a good weeping session while listening to sad songs. I’ll cry watching a movie by a friend’s side. But when I hug that same friend goodbye for the last time before a PCS, my eyes are dry.

Don’t mistake a lack of tears for indifference, though. If someone was a prominent part of my life and I had to say goodbye, chances are I’ll miss them enormously. It just takes some time for the reality and permanence to sink in. Often, the crying will come days or weeks later. Every once in a while, I still cry years later when I’m reminded of a best friend, when I find myself doing something we used to do together, or when I just wish I could see them.

2. It's okay to be overwhelmed

We probably are too. Goodbyes can bring up difficult, confusing, and even contradictory feelings. Sometimes, the anticipation of the goodbye is so intense that it’s hard to be present in the last few months, weeks, or days we have left. At the same time, there’s a ton of pressure to enjoy every precious moment. Being the one to leave and the one being left behind both come with different challenges. It’s important to take care of each other, but you can’t support your friend if you aren’t taking care of yourself. Be as patient and kind to yourself as you are to them. Your feelings are valid, even if you're not the one living in a sea of boxes.

3. Long-distance friendships aren't easy...

Moving is chaotic. We might not text back as quickly as usual while we’re getting settled. Finding a rhythm takes time. And keeping up a long-distance friendship takes work because it’s not going to be exactly the same, no matter what you do.

Redefining a friendship that used to be rooted in getting to spend time in the same place together is an adjustment. Sometimes it doesn’t work out smoothly, and that’s not something to take personally, either. The people I’ve managed to stay in touch with are deeply special to me, but I don’t harbor resentment for the friendships that have faded over time. The only thing my friends and I have ever been able to do is try our best.

4. ...but they're worth it

Just because goodbyes can be hard doesn’t mean you should give up hope. For starters, long-distance friendships are all the more special for the effort they require. The people I’m closest with - the ones who know me best - are close with me because it’s taken years to build that relationship. My friends and I call it "friendship momentum." The longer we've been talking, the easier it gets. There’s nothing like being able to talk to someone who’s known you long enough to know exactly what’s up in your life and tell you what you need to hear. When life is tough, it’s the friends from duty stations past that I lean on most.

And who knows where our lives will take us? You might end up waving goodbye only to find that the goodbye wasn’t as permanent as you thought it was.


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