Saying goodbye might very well be the most difficult experience we humans go through in life. We say goodbye to life situations, places, things, to friends and loved ones, to our beloved.
Goodbyes come with transitions. You are moving from a state of being where what, or who, you are saying goodbye to was a regular part of. You are moving to a new state of being without that person, place, or thing.
When you say goodbye, you’re not just bidding farewell to a past you shared. You are also saying goodbye to a future that could have been. I believe it is the idea of a future without that can be most painful. There was a degree of comfort, even in poor circumstances, that has now been with an uncomfortable and frightening unknowing.
There are different types of goodbyes. You have the goodbyes that you know are an inevitable part of life. You have the goodbyes that you choose to make. You also have goodbyes that are thrust upon you.
The inevitable goodbyes include school graduations, moving out of your parents home, and things of that nature. You know you will eventually need to say goodbye to certain life situations as they are a normal part of life. You get so used to these life situations being a regular part of your existence, however, that there still can be times where the goodbye feels like it comes out of nowhere.
“Four years of college have already gone by? I’m graduating?”. It was inevitable. In fact, you worked towards this goodbye. But there is still a sadness and a difficulty processing a new chapter of your life without having classes, professors, and college parties to worry about. Because of the inevitability, however, these goodbyes can be the easiest to overcome. You did it. You’re progressing.
There are goodbyes you choose to make. You find yourself in a situation that is not working for you anymore. It could be living arrangements, a friendship, a job, goals and dreams, or a romantic relationship. While you are making the decision to say goodbye presumably in order to better yourself and your life situation, they are also difficult. You feel yourself being pulled away and even though you logically know it will be the best move for you, there is still some sort of attachment. This is because the situation or person you are trying to leave is known. There is a degree of comfort.
Saying goodbye to goals and dreams takes a serious amount of self reflection. This is a challenging process of reviewing and prioritizing how you want to live your life. Even when you think you’re making the right decision, you still feel a connection to the work, activities, hopes and dreams you used to have.
When leaving an abusive relationship, there is this complacency because that is what your life is in that moment. You know leaving will mean no more abuse, but then what? Where will you live? Who will you be? Who will you be with? Sometimes the uncertainty that comes with these questions is powerful enough to convince you to stay in a situation that is not serving you.
Mustering up the energy and courage to say “goodbye” can be exhausting and frightening, and that is before you have to deal with the consequences (emotionally, mentally, financially, etc) of that departure. When choosing the goodbye, do so after carefully considering whether there is a possibility to work on the life situation (living arrangements, work, etc) or relationship first.
If it truly does not seem like there is room for growth and development, you owe it to yourself to say goodbye.
The goodbyes that are thrust upon you hurt. As has been pointed out, all goodbyes are painful in one degree or another. Yet, the goodbyes that you aren’t expecting can make it feel like your whole life is being ripped away.
You can be fired from a job without notice or without realizing you were potentially on the chopping block. Something of high value can be stolen from you.
A loved one could pass away suddenly and tragically. Even when a loved one passes away under seemingly inevitable circumstances (cancer, old age, etc), there is a denial that you could ever truly lose that person so you can’t fully accept its inevitability until it happens.
A significant other could break up with you, separate, or divorce. You find yourself in a situation where you are forced into a goodbye with someone so close that maybe you even took their constant presence for granted. They go from being your world, your universe even, to being a distant acquaintance. A memory of a life and future that is no longer to be.
In some cases, dealing with this sort of loss can be even more of an emotionally, mentally, and even physically grinding experience than the passing of a loved one because they are choosing to say goodbye to you. What does that mean for me? Where did I go wrong? Can I fix it? What’s wrong with me? What am I supposed to do now? These are all natural questions to ask. The answers will vary from situation to situation. It could be you. It could be them. It could be both sides.
In a goodbye that is thrust upon you, there is time needed to digest and process this unexpected change in your life situation. In some cases, you are able to work back from the goodbye. Maybe a conversation with your manager, or significant other. But usually by the time that goodbye has been uttered, the decision has already been made. All you can do is respect that goodbye, regardless of how much it might hurt to do so. You may not have wanted to turn the page to this particular chapter, but you have to make the best of it.
After any type of goodbye, we need to make a conscious effort to move on. This is easier said than done. I recognize that and understand deeply from my own personal experiences. We have to keep reminding ourselves to surrender and let go of the clinginess, thoughts, and emotions that are holding us back.
We need to embrace that life will go on for us if we just let it. This does not mean we will not have low moments when we reminisce about the past or fantasize about a future that could have been. When these thoughts and feelings rise up, we need to take a step back and say “I let go. I surrender this.”
All forms of goodbye are a natural and normal part of the procession of life. Some are in our control, and others are not. Regardless, it is important to reach a point of acceptance and understanding. Additionally, treat both yourself and that which you are saying goodbye to with as much compassion, love, and dignity as possible.
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