When You Know It’s Over But You Can’t Say Goodbye

Ending a relationship isn’t easy or painless – even when you know it’s over. Here’s how to cope when you feel like you can’t say goodbye but you know you have to. I wrote this article for a reader who knows her relationship has no future, but is having trouble accepting the truth…

“I have strong feelings for a man – we’re not in a relationship anymore but we’re emotionally involved with each other,” says Liz on How to Emotionally Detach From Someone You Care About. “Recently I learned I’m living in denial. Since both of us know it’s not a good idea to stay emotionally involved, we decided to part ways a couple of times last year. But we keep getting back together, resuming contact. He wants to be friends with me – and he has a long distance relationship with a woman. I recently learned they are getting married. He didn’t tell me, a mutual friend spoke of their engagement. This is not a surprise to me but I’m hurt anyway. I realized I’ve been a fool all along. I’m not sure how to let go off this attachment and it makes me insecure about finding such a great connection again with a man. What do you do when you know it’s over but you can’t say goodbye?”

A season of your life has ended. Some seasons are harder to let go of than others – and all seasons have their joys and heartaches. In this article, I describe healthy ways to let go of a relationship that you know is over, but you’re having trouble releasing. I’m drawing on wisdom from the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and King Solomon.

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” –Albert Camus.

When You Know It’s Over But You Can’t Say Goodbye

Acceptance of this season in your life is the healthiest and wisest path to healing after a relationship is over. Instead of focusing on the pain and difficulty of trying to say goodbye, I encourage you to focus on acceptance and surrender.

This may feel like a season of death, but it is also a season of healing and renewal.

Take a deep breath and look upwards

Take a moment to notice your body posture. Are you hunched over, frowning, tightened up and curled inside yourself? Are you wound up and tense, grieved and closed? If so, you are normal! This is a typical response to knowing that a relationship is over but not being able to say goodbye. You are holding on to something that is not yours. This relationship is no longer yours, and you need to let it go.

Take a deep breath and slowly let the air escape from your lips. Sit up straight and take another deep breath. lift your chin, looked upward towards the sky or the ceiling for the roof of a subway train you’re sitting on. Look around you. What you see? Who’s there? What is in front of you, and how you interact with it?

Now that you are in a new season of your life, you must of living and seeing. It’s time to find new breath, new life, and new growth. How will you do that? I’m glad you asked!

Look at the past seasons of your life – the people who have come and gone

This isn’t the first relationship that has ended for you, is it? Think back to all the hello’s and goodbye’s you’ve seen in your life. Write about them – tell me about them below, or describe them in your private journal. Take time to reflect on relationships that have ended in your life; look at them as seasons that have come and gone.

This is important, especially when you know a relationship is over but you can’t say goodbye. Your present grief is connected to your past relationships. All your current emotions – the grief, disappointment, denial, reluctance, anger, sadness – are part of the people, places, and experiences you’ve loved and lost in the past. Perhaps you had to say goodbye to your grandfather, mother, or your beloved family dog when you were younger. The losses you are experiencing now will hurt more – and it will be harder to say goodbye – if you did not deal with your past losses and grief in healthy ways.

So, if you’re struggling to say goodbye even though you know it’s over, consider the losses you experienced in your past. It’ll be painful, but ultimately healing. Those losses may be affecting you more than you realize, and it’s only by writing or talking about them that you will begin to understand what’s really going on.

Don’t ignore the signs he doesn’t love you when you know it’s over.

Behold! There is a time for every season, every hello and goodbye

When You Know It’s Over But You Can’t Say Goodbye

When You Know It’s Over But You Can’t Say Goodbye

One of my favorite books of the Bible is Ecclesiastes because it talks about the different seasons of life. It’s hard to let go of people we love and relationships that are important, that have become such a big part of our life. It hurts.

Letting go of a relationship is especially painful when we really connect with someone and wonder if we’ll ever feel understood, accepted, and loved again.

The reason you can’t say goodbye even when you know it’s over is because you are clinging to a season that no longer exists. You haven’t accepted that this season of your life is over, and that the time has come to let it go.

A Time for Everything

There is a season (a time appointed) for everything and a time for every delight and event or purpose under heaven –  

A time to be born and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.

A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up. 

A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.

A time to throw away stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.

A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away. 

A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to keep silent and a time to speak.

A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.

– Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

In nature – and in life – every season is equally important: winter, spring, summer, and fall.

Right now you are in the cold lonely depths of the winter season. It’s when you know a relationship is over but you can’t say goodbye that you feel lonelier and colder than ever before. This is when you need to tell yourself that this season, too, shall pass.

Learn how happy, healthy people say goodbye

Happy people see the seasons of their lives – and finish their life stories – on a joyful note of gratitude and appreciation.

In What Happy People Know: How the New Science of Happiness Can Change Your Life for the Better, psychologist Dan Baker says that instead of going over and over what they’ve lost, happy people focus on what they’ve gained. He recalls a woman who reminisced fondly about her deceased husband: “I said something along the lines of what a good man he must have been. ‘No way,’ she said. ‘He was a womanizer and a drunk. A real pain in the butt. But we had more love than most people ever dream of.’”

Baker adds that appreciation is the first and most fundamental tool of happiness. Appreciation is the purest, strongest form of love. It is the outward-bound kind of love that asks for nothing and gives everything. And, research shows that it is physiologically impossible to be in a state of gratitude and a state of fear at the same time.

Accept the end of this season

can't say goodbye know its over“Acceptance – whether we believe in God or not – allows us to move into the fullness of joy,” writes the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Carlton Abrams in The Book of Joy – Lasting Happiness in a Changing World.

Acceptance allows us to engage with life on its own terms rather than rail against the fact that life is not as we would wish. It allows us not to struggle against the day-to-day current.

The Dalai Lama had told us that stress and anxiety come from our expectations of how life should be. When we are able to accept that life is how it is, not as we think it should be, we are able to ease the ride, to go from that bumpy axle with all its suffering, stress, anxiety, and dissatisfaction, to the smooth axle with its greater ease, comfort, and happiness.”

When you know it’s over but you can’t say goodbye, remember the Dalai Lama’s words:

“So many of the causes of suffering come from our reacting to the people, places, things, and circumstances in our lives, rather than accepting them,” he says in The Book of Joy. “When we react, we stay locked in judgment and criticism, anxiety and despair, even denial and addiction. It is impossible to experience joy when we are stuck this way. Acceptance is the sword that cuts through all of this resistance, allowing us to relax, to see clearly, and to respond appropriately.”

If you aren’t sure if your relationship is over, you might find Is Your Marriage Over? 6 Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore helpful.

Say goodbye with love, forgiveness, and peace

The time has come for you to stop saying that you can’t say goodbye. It’s time for you to accept that this relationship is over. It had its joys and heartaches, its happiness and sadness, its ups and downs, its peaks and valleys. It was what it was, and it no longer is.

Yes, you can say goodbye with love, peace, and even joy – especially if you learn how to say goodbye in healthy ways. You can find forgiveness if you need to forgive. You can find compassionate if you need to go gentle on yourself or others. You can find love even as you end a relationship. And you can find life even in the depths of this winter season.

What say you, dear reader? Feel free to tell me your story in the comments section below. I can’t offer advice and I have no solutions, but you may feel better if you write about your experience. What does it feel like to know a relationship is over? Why do you think you can’t say goodbye?

Help When You Know It’s Over But Can’t Say Goodbye

When You Know It’s Over But You Can’t Say GoodbyeIn 3 Powerful Secrets and 75 Tips for Healing Your Heart, I share practical, helpful tips for healing after a breakup and saying goodbye even when you feel like you can’t let go of a relationship.

In this ebook, you’ll find:

  • 3 powerful secrets for letting go of someone you love
  • 75 tips for taking specific action towards healing your heart

To write this ebook, I interviewed life coaches, counselors, and grief coaches. I summarized everything I learned about letting go of someone you love, processing the pain of a breakup, and grieving the end of a relationship.

Most of this ebook consists of practical, helpful, effective tips from the counselors and life coaches I interviewed. I also included 15 stories of the actual struggles people face when letting go.

When You Know It’s Over But You Can’t Say GoodbyeIn Coming Apart- Why Relationships End and How to Live Through the Ending of Yours, Daphne Rose Kingma says that next to the death of a loved one, the ending of a relationship is the most painful experience most people will ever go through.

Coming Apart is a first-aid kit for getting through the loss when you know it’s over but you can’t say goodbye. This book will help you live through the end of your relationship with your self-esteem intact.

In this book, you’ll learn:

  • Love myths – and why we’re in really in relationships
  • The life span of love
  • The emotional and unconscious processes of saying goodbye when it’s over
  • How to get through the ending of a relationship

Originally published in 1987, and continuously in print since then, with more than half a million copies sold, Coming Apart has been an important resource for hundreds of thousands of readers experiencing the pain and stress of a breakup.

A Blessing for You

May you find hope and healing, life and light. May your goodbye be filled with acceptance and peace, and may you end this season of your life in healthy and even joyful ways.

And may you be filled with the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.




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7 thoughts on “When You Know It’s Over But You Can’t Say Goodbye”

  1. Hi laurie my soulmate of thirty eight years didn’t end the relationship he died there is no time limit on grief yes he was. My life and no I can’t say goodbye for god’s sake when your partner dies it doesnt mean the marriage is over he has just transcended and can probably keep a watchful caring eye on me

  2. Pingback: How Do You Treat Yourself? Echoes of Love ⋆ Echoing Jesus

  3. Ive been dealing with this cold season for a few months now and for the love of me I just couldn’t find the reason why I just couldn’t let go of my boyfriend. I know it’s over but because my heart is 100 percent involved I felt/feel we can come back from the hardships we’ve both been through. I found out that I’m not really trying to accept it’s over. Well it’s not me it’s the convincing my heart. My heart just won’t let me be great! I miss him and the memories reply over and over of the joys although he broke my heart terribly. I just love him want him and no one else! I found out he was in another relationship while we were in ours so moving on from me for him is a breeze. While I’m here crying lost hope and just feel like I’m never going to find happiness within myself. I just want to know how do you make your heart let go? It feels like my heart controls my emotions

  4. Oh Jeez…I’ve had a tough last year. I too felt I couldn’t say goodbye to what at the time felt the love of my life. I prayed so much and so hard for him to turn away from his weakness of letting others and his ex make him feel guilty for not being with her as shes vulnerable with her learning dissabilities…get strong with dealing with their child crying and possibly playing on it a bit for them to reconcile…having her around abit too much…then coping with him defending her even if it wasn’t warranted. My self esteeem suffered as a result…especially with hearing how everyone loves her..she just does…when she was round cooking for us all ..cleaning…(your motivation crumbles and you cease from even wanting to help him out with chores when this is going on.)when you say how this is upsetting you. He has cfs…so she feels she is his only support and helper..he lets her..if I ask to help or even want to (I felt asking was better so he didn’t feel I was taking over his independance to do things) he’d decline.

    It was an emotional triangle…laughing and play fighting in front of me…etc. turning every objection into a justification from his point of view. Refusing to stop hurting me because he couldn’t offer me what I wanted or deserved. Caught in a difficult situation he felt he couldn’t change things because everyone didn’t support us being together. Telling me his ex mother in law would support a reunian…I felt the tug of the holy spirit who reveals the fathers will to us to say step back …the toughest thing was executing it…I prayed for strengh…a friend became Gods mouth piece…I told him I was leaving his life, he cannot have the power to hurt me no more.

    He is as far as I’m aware still defending his behaviour.. I felt God was pushing me out the nest and helping me see that I could fly free and not be a doormat. To start knowing myself again whos identity was threatened by his ex needs and wants his duty to keep her sweet…like a hungary parasite it threatened my sanity, health and wellbeing. It was painful walking away..but now christmas has gone..I can see with spring just around the corner how my mind was being played…my feelings trampled on. I keep seeing butterflies everywhere. God is giving me myself back…I hope the pain of having a family of my own ebbs and I get blessed with one..even though I have only 5 or 6 years left of my fertile years..mostly used up with false hope and selfishness of others. Can God restore things back ? I feel they have robbed me of those things , personal things I held dear.

    I hope its not too late.

    1. Sweetie, it is not too late. You will have your family, do not despair. You will find true love again.
      Praying for you.
      Don’t lose hope!