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Building a Dock: a resource for the stayer

Transition is not just an experience for those who are moving. It is anytime where change occurs in our life.Those who stay also experience it, too (Jones, 2015 Nov 3). In fact, many may feel like the goodbyes and hellos are waves crashing around their feet. And some years the tides are stronger than others and it feels like you are being knocked down. To think of it in a different way, Gardner (2015) noted that “Marjory Foyle coined the term, ‘the hi-bye syndrome’” because the Stayers are always saying good-bye. That is why this transition tool is designed for those that stay.

Just like those who leave have the RAF(G)T, this resource tool, DOCK, is designed to help those who stay to process the change that is happening around them in a healthy way.

Who Are the Stayers?

To put it simply, they are those that stay and are not moving to a new location. This could be the parents getting ready to send their child off to a dorm program or to university. Or this could be the friend who goes to the track and runs alone because her running buddy just moved away. It is also the one who invites the new family or individual over for a meal to welcome them to the new city.The Stayers are the ones who have lived in that location for at least 3-4 years. They are the ones that are a bit hesitant to dive into new friendships because they know the cost. They have had their share of saying goodbye.

Why Build a DOCK?

In 2020 when my son graduated from high school, I realized that there was nothing out there to help me process this transition in our family. We had always been the Leaver and could build RAFTs easily enough, but this time we were Staying, and I did not know what to do with that. I could not find any resources for Stayers, so I created my own.

Building your DOCK is a way to help you process the change that is coming when people in your life move away. It helps you acknowledge the hard yet take steps to support the one leaving.

D: Decide to Stay

What’s the first thing you do when someone close to you tells you they are not going to be around next year? Emotionally, you may take a step back because you know goodbyes are brutal. You want to avoid pain. This first step is internal. Remind yourself that this relationship is worth staying in even though goodbyes are hard.

The second thing you probably do is question yourself, “Is it time for me (us) to leave, too? Should we look at other places?”. It is normal to question and wonder. I believe it is even healthy to take time to evaluate whether it is time to move or continue to stay in your location. If you decide that it is time to go, then you should begin building your RAF(G)T.

And third, decide that you will “invest” in the new people when they arrive. Community and positive relationships are very important for mental health. Martin E.P. Seligman talks about the importance of being known and loved in his book Flourish. Without at least one good “everyday” friend we isolate, and isolation only leads to loneliness. And the Loneliness Trail is not one anyone wants to walk down.

Self-awareness is important. We need to acknowledge our emotions, whether they are comfortable or uncomfortable. This is all a part of processing. And processing is taking steps toward well-being.

O: Offer Help

This second step is outward. In fact, research has shown that helping others activates empathy in our brains which increases joy (Korb, 2015, p.170). There are many ways you can offer help, and this is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should help you begin brainstorming your own ideas.

Food: Offer to bring over a meal in “to-go” containers so they don’t have to return anything; bring over special drinks or teas to give them a boost while they are packing.

Packing: Offer to watch kids if they have little ones while they pack; offer to help pack or sell items online if that endeavor is overwhelming to them.

Listen: Just offer a moment for them to share all the emotions they are having. This is important: Don’t offer unsolicited advice – just listen and be with your friend. Not everyone is a crier, but if you are then sit and cry with them. If you are not, sit and be silent and let them cry. You know your friend, try to be that comfort or cheerleader that they need.

C: Cherish the Memories

This is all about relationships and making memories. It is letting them know how much you care and appreciate them. Think about ways that you can let them know.

Host a “sendoff” party for them. Taking care of all the invitations and planning.

Create a digital scrapbook or other memorabilia of your time together and mail it to them after they leave.

Spend one more time together at a favorite place and take photos.

These things take time, so make sure you use a calendar and check with them that they can do it when you want to.

This is a time for making memories, but it is also taking time to grieve. Acknowledge the losses both with the one leaving, but also on your own. Take time to mourn. There are several ways to process, but naming those things and acknowledging that it is hard is part of self-awareness which again leads to well-being.

K: Keep Caring and Connecting

After they leave keep in touch. Stay connected. They are still a part of your life. It will look different, of course, but check in on them through messages and video chats. Send a small care package to let them know they are not forgotten and missed. As time goes on, you may not connect as often. But I will attest that even if it is years later that you are able to reconnect, you will pick up right where you left off. I promise.

Care for yourself. Continue to process after they have gone and when the new people begin to arrive.

Remember to reach out to the Newbie and still care. It requires courage, but like I mentioned earlier, if you don't then you are isolating yourself. You really don't want to go down the Loneliness Trail.

In keeping with the analogy of rafts and docks. The Leavers need a well-maintained dock to leave from, but the Newbie also needs one to help them land well.

Below is a free resource that you can download to use as you continue to support your own well-being. Feel free to share it.

DOCK Infograph
Download PDF • 40KB



Gardner, L.M. (2015). Heathy, resilient, & effective in cross-cultural ministries. Komunitas Katalis.

Jones, J. (2015 Nov 3). "The transition that never ends: The ongoing cycle of expat Stayers, Goers and Newbies," The Culture Blend.

Korb, A. (2015). The upward spiral. New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Seligman, M.E.P. (2011). Flourish. Atria Paperback.

PC: Mickey B. at Unsplashed

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Aug 24, 2023

This is excellent, thank you!

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