Saying goodbye to your tribe is something military women are all too familiar with, but Melissa shares some comforting truths about how God helps us rise up.

Saying Goodbye to Your Tribe … Again

by Melissa Hicks

I tried to tell myself I’d be ok as I wiped tears from my face.

I was driving away from our 8th duty station in a loaded down minivan with two kids in the back whining for snacks. But the tears wouldn’t stop. I knew the people I was leaving behind were irreplaceable. I was never going to find people like them again. Sure, I’d find new people, different people, more irreplaceable (in different ways) people. But I loved these people. They got me. They walked with me through hard times. They brought me meals when I had a new baby. They celebrated my kids’ birthdays. They came over late at night to check out that mysterious sound while my husband was deployed. They cheered me on when I attempted new challenges. 

Some things in life get easier the more you do them. Saying goodbye to your tribe (again) you love is not one of them.

I know because I’ve been doing it my whole life. First as an Army brat, now as an Army wife. You would think saying goodbye comes easy for me. Except it doesn’t. I hate saying goodbye. So much so that I’ve tried that whole “let’s not make friends at this duty station so leaving won’t be hard” thing. It doesn’t work either. What’s a girl to do? Just deal with the pain and grief and keep putting your heart out there time and time again? Basically. Yes. 

Saying goodbye to friends who’ve become family (we like to call them “framily” here at Planting Roots) is awful. Gut-wrenching, painstaking, heart-breaking. 

Paul knew a thing or two about this as well. In his farewell speech to the Ephesians, Paul recognized that it would be the last time he saw his friends. He charged them with instructions to guard their hearts and minds and to remember the gospel. Then he prayed for them, “And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again.” (Acts 20:36-38b)

Goodbyes are hard.

Knowing the goodbye is coming doesn’t make it much better. That familiar sinking feeling in your stomach when your RFO comes in. The tears that slip down your cheeks as you fall asleep, thinking of the changes to come. All the “lasts.”

Sometimes the goodbyes seem endless. It’s almost like we get “farewell fatigue,” and we’re exhausted from all the emotion we’ve expended. In some ways, we’re just ready to get it over with. Yet when it’s time to go, it feels so final.  

This year at Planting Roots, we’re looking at some of the ways life knocks us down and how God can help us rise back up. When it comes to saying goodbye to friends, it’s ok to embrace the pain for a little while. To grieve those relationships. We may not be losing those people forever (especially if they’re believers), but the relationship is changing. And though we should be accustomed to change, it doesn’t make it easier. So we can take some time to remember what we love so dearly about those people, to mourn that we won’t get to spend time with them in the same ways we once did.

But we can’t get stuck there.

And honestly, this is where I struggle most. After we grieve (sometimes while we’re still mourning) we have to step out in faith, asking God to provide us with new friends at our next duty station. Asking him for courage to rise up, to open ourselves up to friendship and community, knowing that someday we’ll have to say goodbye to them, too. 

Those tears in my minivan were two years ago now, and while I still miss my friends, God has faithfully provided the relationships I need here, in the place where he’s planted me. From the mom who commiserates about tough parenting dilemmas to the woman who encourages me to step outside of my comfort zone and share the gospel with the lost. Other military wives who understand the need to plug in quickly. Civilian women who remind me that though our lives are different, our faith in God unites us. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, God has met my need for relationship. Just as he did in every other duty station. 

Saying goodbye to your tribe is hard, but God is faithful.

Rise Up

Pause Think through why the goodbye is so hard, what you will miss about that person or group of people, and thank God for them. (Philippians 1:3-5)

Pray Pour out your heart to God, telling him how hard it is to say goodbye. Ask Him for courage to form new relationships. (Psalm 107:28)

Connect Find other people in your area or your next duty station you can pour into. Maybe there’s someone who is a season or two behind you in life, but you can listen to their struggles or help them out when a need arises. Or maybe you can find someone who can mentor you in a particular area where you’ve always wanted to grow. (Proverbs 27:10)


Thank you, Father, for the community of friends you have so graciously provided. Help me now as I say goodbye again, to mourn these relationships with hope, trusting that you will provide. Amen.