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Ask Andrea - Goodbye OUTCAN

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Looking for a little advice about your relationship? Perhaps you have questions about parenting in Europe? Ask Andrea! Our social worker, Andrea Liss will pick one question a month and answer it in our mid-month bulletin. You can submit your questions anonymously to her at

Hello OUTCAN,  

Spring is in the air...and so are thoughts of moving back to Canada for many of us, myself included. This month’s Ask Andrea is about Goodbye OUTCAN.  


How are you doing with the spectre of transitioning back to Canada? This month’s Ask Andrea will help you to better understand the emotional roller coaster ride that is the preparatory stage of going back to our native land. “Goodbye” is the first of three stages of OUTCAN transition back to Canada. This article will be familiar to some readers as much of it is taken from a column that was published last year. I have updated the Goodbye material based on feedback from my Military Family Services (MFS) Community Service Provider (CSP) colleagues. Shout out to the CSPs who work hard every day to help ferry you from Canada to the land of OUTCAN and back again! 


For those leaving OUTCAN this summer, you will have started your Goodbye process. For those that are social, this means setting up final outings with friends. Most people are making plans for their final OUTCAN pleasure trips, scheduling contract terminations for phones and utilities, and just generally getting their OUTCAN ducks in a row. It’s important to start early, especially when it comes to planning goodbyes with friends.  


Friends, co-workers, and neighbours may need to be reminded that you are leaving- so many moves and changes occur with military postings that it can be hard to keep everyone’s whereabouts straight. Never assume that others know you are leaving OUTCAN this summer. This is one reason that starting goodbyes early is a smart move. It is generally recommended that people start thinking about their goodbyes in February especially if you have been OUTCAN for three or more years. It’s important that you and your children experience final dinners with community members and say yes to last-minute plans. For those that like less fanfare, you can quietly meet with people and let them know you don’t want a big send-off. Maybe intimate dinners or coffee breaks are better suited to you. Writing a goodbye card to a friend and including your new address may be more your style. Ask to be added to your friend’s Christmas card list. Whatever your approach, know that someone else may have an entirely different one. You do you and the style of goodbye that best suits you. Sometimes you may have to give a little if a friend needs more from you than you’d usually want to give. If it’s no sweat off your back, why deny them that? If it’s a nuisance, you can also assess whether it’s time to honour your own style and be your authentic self. Like ducking out of a party without letting anyone know, sometimes we just need to jet without any hullaballoo. Oh, how complicated we are!  


Children need to start their goodbyes early too. Have you discussed your upcoming move with your children? Do you know how they are feeling about it? Can you discern what they need now and what they may need in May and June as school winds down? Your child may want to get a special gift for a friend and personalize it to mark this special time in their lives. Remember, it can take time to find a meaningful gift and may be more impactful if this process is top of mind rather than an after-thought. Kind words in a card are always welcome. Both kids and adults have a rare opportunity during goodbyes to be deliberate about articulating the impact that a particular friend has had. For example, one OUTCAN spouse wrote to her friend upon leaving “You’ve had an impact on me. I’m happy that I got to spend time with you. Our friendship OUTCAN saved me. When my mom ran into health problems, you were there for me and helped me navigate remote caregiving. That meant so much to me. I will cherish the memories of the time I got to spend with you.” Goodbyes are a great time for intimacy for both adults and children.  


We all experience goodbyes differently. Here is a list of four response styles to leaving OUTCAN. Which one are you? Which one is your spouse? Do one of you need more pushing along than the other? What work do you need to do to make this a good OUTCAN Goodbye?   

  1. The Happy Hopper- “I’m outta here! Weee, I can’t wait to get going! I love Canada. I’ve missed it so. I’m excited about Kingston. I can’t wait to settle in my old neighbourhood! Who cares about goodbyes! How much longer do I have to be here?” It is wonderful that the Happy Hopper is raring to go and counting the days. The Happy Hopper may be happy because they are hoping going home will bring them happiness. Ironically, some Happy Hoppers have found OUTCAN dissatisfying. This is unfortunate. I would recommend you seek the support of a therapist. If you are a regular reader of this column, you will know that I rarely recommend this directly, so take heed. There is likely a lot going on for you personally and professionally, or you are too isolated. "Wanting’ mind and fearfulness can rob us of many experiences and much satisfaction. It is never too late to turn this around. The Happy Hopper’s task is to slow down and take stock of their experience and ask themselves why they are unable to fulfill themselves from an internal perspective. Without addressing your unhappiness now, you may be robbing yourself of important self-development. Failure is not the best teacher. It is still possible to turn your OUTCAN into a win. See the links below that may be of help to you.   

  1. The Ambivalent Adapter- “I know I have to go but it's been so great. We are set to leave, I hear the words, but I’m not ready. This is killing me and yet I have come to accept it. OUTCAN has been amazing. Canada is not what I want but where I have to go. I hope I’ll be happy, but I can’t quite imagine that yet. I suppose it will come in time but...”. The Ambivalent Adapter’s conversation around going back to Canada is characterized by “Yes, but...”. The Ambivalent Adapter needs to focus on acceptance and the sooner, the better. “Yes but” in this case involves not seeing reality as it is. The struggle here is that you have no choice but to return to Canada, but your mind wishes you did. The move back to Canada is happening whether you like it or not. The Ambivalent Adapter could benefit from making a long, thoughtful list of the advantages of returning to Canada and the disadvantages of being OUTCAN. The Ambivalent Adapter may need a little help from a friend on this. Contacting people back home to ask them about this will help. Ensure you stay away from those who confirm your negative beliefs about returning to Canada. The Ambivalent Adapter will benefit from changing how they feel about their return or radically accepting it. Again, see the links below.   

  1. The Miffed Mover- “I don’t want to go. I’m angry that I have to leave. This has been the best experience of my life, and I can’t imagine that it will have to end. No way. I’m going to plead and bargain to stay no matter what. I’m going to cling to this for as long as I can.” The best thing about the Miffed Mover is that they have been staunch supporters of OUTCAN. They have given it all they can. Who can blame them for clinging? Keep in mind that such clinging creates suffering. The Miffed Mover needs to take stock of all they have given to OUTCAN and to take pride in their positive contributions to community and family. The Miffed Mover was at one time the best OUTCAN cheerleader which all of us needed. Again, it is the skill of Radical Acceptance that the Miffed Mover must double down on and fast. If you are talking to a Miffed Mover help them out by thanking them for all they have contributed! Interestingly, the Miffed Mover and the Happy Hopper have a lot in common underneath the surface- both are very displeased and digging in their heels. 


  1. The Smooth Sailor- the Smooth Sailor is a pretty cool cat. The Smooth Sailor’s approach to Goodbye is “I can get started early. Even if I don’t have a posting message, I know I am going so let me make the best of my precious time here. How can I move along while fully experiencing life in Europe? What do I need? What do my kids need? What do I have to look forward to and how am I going to make this happen? Military life has its pits and peaks. It’s time to lean in, show up, and get my ‘grit’ on! Let the games begin”! The Smooth Sailor takes an interest in their transition and sees it as a personal challenge to get as right as possible. They understand that they have built up practice in transitioning and are clear about why moving back to Canada aligns with their overall life goals. The Smooth Sailor is hopeful about the transition back to Canada and understands that they are not the same as they were when they left Canada, and that Canada is a new place. The Smooth Sailor realizes that new places come with a set of expectations and fantasies. The Smooth Sailor uses their culture shock and transition to OUTCAN and purposefully applies this to the Back to Canada transition.  


Best wishes in your cleaning, decluttering and final trips OUTCAN! Hello Canada! 




How to turn your situation around: 


Perseverance, Passion, Grit and all kinds of good stuff on goals and behaviour 

If you would like to pose a question for the Ask Andrea column, please send your anonymous question to and Andrea will do her best to share some of her ideas.

Andrea has a master’s degree in Social Work and is a Registered Social Worker (Ontario) with over 20 years of experience. She maintains a faculty appointment at McMaster University where she teaches in the Masters of Science in Psychotherapy program.

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