Service of Goodbye II: Nurses and Teachers Saying Adios to Children

June 24th, 2019

Categories: Goodbye, Nurses, Teachers


Goodbyes are one of my least favorite things which is why I’ve broached the subject head-on only twice in the 11 years I’ve written this blog.


I marvel at the glowing faces of hospital nurses as they wave goodbye to children leaving for home. I’ve seen this in news clips or documentaries. Many of the nurses have helped bring the tots, some under their care for months if not years, back from the brink of death. Yet they also don’t want to see their patients return to the hospital for treatment.

I’ve thought: “How do they feel losing contact with the little ones they must have become attached to?”

You can’t know the emotions of a stranger you’ve never spoken with, but Leanne Sowul‘s blog post, “The Perpetual Goodbye,” shares a glimpse at how others, who share the lives of children, feel when the kids move on.

She wrote about this year’s au revoir to the fifth graders she taught in band for two years in 60 small group lessons and 85 rehearsals. “I’ve gotten to know many of them quite well, and I’m going to miss them very much.”


She continued: “It’s something that isn’t discussed much in teaching circles: the perpetual need to say goodbye. We talk about the stress of the end of the year, how crazy the students get when the weather turns warm, and how much we can’t wait to relax. Sometimes we say, ‘This was a good group of kids. I’m going to miss them.’ But we don’t really talk about the deep loss we feel. We swallow it and move on. It’s the nature of the job.”

My first grade teacher, Miss Woods, would look right through you if you saw her in the hall once you moved to second grade and beyond. I was told that she had lost her own child which is why she did that–she didn’t want deep connection with her students.

Sowul continued: “That’s how it is when you’re a teacher: the students move on, and you’re supposed to stay the same. But you’re not the same. You’re different, because they’ve changed you.

“It’s like having your kids grow up and move away every single year. It’s not something that gets easier with time. In some ways, as you become a better teacher and learn to connect better with kids, it gets harder.”

It’s not just children that nurses and teachers miss nor are these two professions exclusive in this aspect of a job. What are some others? Why don’t teachers address and admit the loss among themselves?


2 Responses to “Service of Goodbye II: Nurses and Teachers Saying Adios to Children”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    Teachers, nurses and doctors are well aware of the ‘goodbye” syndrome. As professionals, most act to steel themselves by refusing to have close relationships with those they encounter while on the job. Failure to maintain such a stance could (and sometimes does) result into mental and emotional episodes.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Good point. I’ve seen films where patients become involved with psychiatrists. Barbara Streisand plays a psychiatrist in “Prince of Tides.” She falls in love with the brother of her patient which isn’t spot on, but the general idea. And on occasion we hear of teachers arrested for having affairs with underage students.

    It must be extremely difficult to maintain a following if a doctor is too chilly and aloof. Martin Clunes plays a real grump with social skill problems in the super PBS Brit TV series “Doc Martin.” On the other hand, being too familiar, as you point out, can lead to trouble.

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