The Unspoken Goodbyes

Heidi Carrington Heath
4 min readNov 9, 2021

I don’t remember the first time it happened.

I don’t remember the first time it happened, but this, this day is clearly solidified in my mind.

I was 27, and grieving the separation from my then spouse. As happens, my grief and anger were spilling out in a variety of ways. The people who knew me best gave me a lot of grace about it, but I was messy. People so often are.

My best friend of nearly a decade walked into a Starbucks on a cold Boston night, upset and angry at how I had spoken to her in the conversation where we shared we were getting divorced. See? Messy. I apologized. We agreed to move forward. The biting wind blew her out the door as quickly as she’d arrived. I never saw her again. Not a week later, she blocked me on social media, disinvited me from her wedding (without telling me herself), and never spoke to me again. That was twelve years ago.

Years later, I would have multiple experiences that were much less drastic or harsh. Friends who I had loved through the hardest moments of their lives would slowly drawback from our friendship. People who at one point had been essential to my tightly drawn inner circle would fade into the background. Without any fanfare, or a big moment, our relationships had changed, shifted, morphed. They had transformed, but I had not had a chance to participate in that transformation. Or maybe I had, but didn’t know it?

Over and over in my adult life people have recounted versions of this story to me. This relationship that had once felt SO crucial to their life has profoundly changed. Not cut off, but no longer the close, essential friendship, or relationship it had once been. In many cases this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It was simply an evolution over time of one kind of relationship to the next, but there was a hitch. Both people hadn’t had a chance to consent, so one is left wondering what they did wrong, or feeling slighted by the sudden withdrawal, and the other appears to have moved on without a second thought. Transformation had happened, and suddenly someone had been left behind.

In the best of circumstances, this can be a decision based in mutuality, one that gives both people a chance to give thanks for what was, and turn collectively toward what is. More often though, at least one person remains stuck in the false dichotomy that we often create. Relationships must be BFF, or operating at cut off, and between the two be dragons…

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Heidi Carrington Heath

The Rev. Heidi Carrington Heath (she/her/hers) is a preacher, teacher, activist, writer, holy mischief maker, and proud queer femme.