If you’re dealing with a friend moving away right now, here’s my best advice for how you can support them during this exciting, stressful time.
After graduating college in 2016, I took the plunge and moved from my home state, Indiana, to New York City. I didn’t have a job or an apartment lined up, but I had a cousin in the area who was kind enough to let me crash at his place until I got my life together. Throughout the entire moving process, I was nervous but excited to be taking such a big step towards something I’ve always wanted.
Although my parents were supportive of my move, not all my friends and family were. I got some mixed reactions ranging from, ‘Why would you ever want to leave?’ to ‘You mean…you’re moving without a job?’ I know the doubters meant well, but honestly it hurt my feelings that they didn’t believe in me.
Three years later, I received the same mixed reactions when I announced that I’d be moving to Berlin, Germany to pursue a freelance career. My close friends were obviously sad I’d be leaving them, but they were wholly supportive of my decision. However, the doubters in my life continually voiced their concern that I was moving without a “real” job (I’m assuming that meant a 9 to 5 office job) and that I didn’t know anyone in Berlin. Thank goodness I trusted my gut and made both of these big moves — I can’t imagine my life having panned out any other way!
I’m sharing these bits of my personal history because I know what it’s like to be the best friend moving away. It’s hard in many ways, but with the right support system a big move like the two I’ve made in my life can feel like a big adventure. If you’re dealing with a friend moving away right now, here’s my best advice for how you can support them during this exciting, stressful time.
Before the Move
Keep your doubts to yourself…
Obviously, you should be honest with your friend and let them know how you’re really feeling (more on that next), but if your gut reaction to the news that they’re moving is doubt, don’t voice it. At least, don’t voice your doubts right away. Moving states is a huge life step, and I can guarantee that your friend is pretty nervous about it. Instead of asking about their job prospects or the logistics of moving all their stuff across state lines, first congratulate them on taking this leap of faith and tell them how proud you are that they’re ballsy enough to do this. Moving in general is stressful and scary, and moving to a whole new state where you don’t know anyone is even more nerve wracking, so the fact they they’ve chosen to move is a big deal.
…But still keep things real
Once things settle a bit and you’ve had some time to adjust to your friend’s nearing departure, let them know how you’re feeling. Odds are you’ll feel anxious as well, both about how the move will affect your friendship and how your friend will cope in a new city. When I moved to the east coast, it was actually nice to have my friends share their own fears with me about the move. It made me feel comfortable bringing up my own insecurities about moving away from home and I knew they were bringing these things up because they cared about me.
What I didn’t like hearing were things like, “But your family’s here, why would you ever want to leave them?” and “You can find the same type of work in Indiana, why are you making things hard on yourself?” Comments like that made me second guess myself, and were pretty hurtful because it made it seem like I couldn’t handle living on the east coast.
Don’t worry about talking too much about the move. Your friend’s life is about to change in a big way, and I’m sure moving day is on her mind 95% of the time. Ask how the apartment hunt is going, if she needs help editing her cover letter, how she’s feeling about the move, etc. Show that you care about this transition and that you’re excited for the move.
Help them clear out their apartment
Cleaning out my childhood bedroom was a long process. I lived at home the summer before I moved to New York, and each weekend I’d donate a few more articles of clothing, pack up a few more books, and generally try and shove my entire life into as few containers as possible. Even if you have just a few hours to spare, helping your friend pack some stuff up will be super helpful and will give her more time to do other important things, like booking movers. If you’re feeling extra helpful, offer to take some of her unwanted items to a donation center like Goodwill.
Say a meaningful goodbye
This doesn’t have to be anything big like a going away party, but carving out time for one last coffee date or movie night is a great way to say goodbye. If you’re not sure what to say to someone who is moving away, that’s okay. Chances are, your friend who’s moving away doesn’t know what to say either.
If you’re worried you’ll get too choked up when you part ways, try writing them a letter instead. Instead of focusing on what feels sad at the moment — your best friend moving away — focus on the happy memories you’ve shared up until then. Think of your favorite adventures you’ve had, the shared experiences you’ve enjoyed. Jot it all down, or save some of the photos to a folder on your phone so you can reminisce together. And remember, this isn’t goodbye forever!
My mom has a saying that might help you: “Just because something will be different, it doesn’t mean it will be bad.” After your friend moves away, your friendship won’t be the same as it’s always been, but that’s okay. Think of this as a time to let your friendship grow and develop in a new, wonderful way. True friends will keep in touch forever, they just will. Trust the process and be excited for your friend.
During the Move
Help pack everything
Even if your friend hires movers, she’ll still need help with last-minute packing she didn’t anticipate. Just having another person on hand to direct movers and make sure the right boxes go where they need to is useful.
Offer to do a final clean of the apartment
To ensure you’re given your security deposit back in full, it’s important that your apartment is totally clean and there aren’t scratches on the floor, etc. Offering to do a final clean of the apartment for your friend is huge, and it’ll only take 30-40 minutes of your time, depending on how large the apartment is.
After the Move
Plan a visit
Knowing that my college roommate was going to be in NYC a month after I moved motivated me to get to know the city better and made me work even harder to find a job. I wanted to be able to recommend places for us to eat and show her “my NYC.” As soon as your friend moves, figure out a time that works for you to visit her new place. Even if you can’t visit for a few months, it’ll mean a lot to her that you’re willing to spend your time and money to see her.
Send them something
There’s no need to break the bank here, but sending your friend a little something special in the mail is a great way to show them that they’ve been on your mind. Send them a nice note in the mail, or order something from Amazon that they could use in their new home, like a candle or fuzzy socks. It doesn’t have to be anything big or super special, it’s the thought that counts!
Call or text regularly the first few weeks
This might seem obvious to some, but my friends and I don’t actually text each other that often. We all prefer long phone calls, which can be tough to squeeze into a busy schedule. Take the time to send your friend a ‘Good Morning’ text. Call them the first night they’re in a new apartment to let them know you’re thinking about them. Remember that they’ve left their whole life behind in another state and need you to remind them that they have an incredible support system back home that’s cheering them on during this stressful time.
A few more tips if a friend is moving away…
- What to say to someone who is moving away — You don’t need to know the “right words.” This is likely a tough situation for both of you. But keep things as positive as you can and focus on the good that’s going to come from the move, not the bad. If your friend is looking forward to the changes this move will bring, don’t voice your worries! Lift them up as much as you can.
- What to write when someone is moving away — Obviously, what you write in your going away card is up to you. But if you’re struggling to write a farewell note, try listing your top five memories you’ve had with your friend. Or write down the things you want to do together when you next see each other. It’s okay to feel sad about the move, but remember that this is a joyous occasion as well!
- What to give to someone who is moving away — Finding the right goodbye gifts for friends who are moving away is hard. I actually wrote an entire blog post about gifts to give someone who’s moving away, so check out that list and see if any of the gifts mentioned would be good for your friend.
As the friend who moved out of state, I can guarantee that doing these things for your bestie will make them feel supported and loved during their move. If this is something you’re going through right now, try and enjoy as much time together as you can, but don’t stress about what comes next. Since moving to Berlin in 2019, I’ve learned that the universe has a funny way of bringing people back together. So as hard as it is to do, say goodbye to your friend and get excited for the future adventures you’ll share.
It’s never easy saying goodbye to a friend who’s moving away, but as the friend who’s moved away (twice) I cannot emphasize enough how good it feels to know my support system back home still loves and thinks of me often. There’s no way I could have moved to NYC and then to Berlin if my friends back home dragged me down every step of the way with their doubts and fears for my move. Because they believed in me and helped me out every step of the way — whether emotionally or literally — I’ve been able to do things with my life I never dreamed of as a kid.
So for all the friends reading this post to learn how to support their friend moving away, thank you. You may never know how much you’re helping your friend right now, but know that you are doing wonderful things for them.
Tell me: Have you ever had a friend or close family member move far away? I’d love to know how you dealt with it!
More posts you’ll love:
- How to Make Friends as an Adult
- The Best Gifts for Friends Moving Away
- Traveling With Friends: 27 Questions to Ask Before Vacationing Together
- All of my posts about life in Berlin!