Lets be honest, there are no goodbyes that make us feel great. Either we have had to work hard to find a way to say goodbye to something (diets, failed relationships), or we are saying goodbye because the goodbye is pushed towards us (children leaving home, friends moving away). Each goodbye presents us with different grades of feelings for sure; in fact one can almost rate the severity of the feeling by the placement of the lump in the throat. The higher the lump, the more I’m likely to fall apart just at the mention of the subject; “Jolene did you hear Frank is moving to Scotland !”.
Yet I can’t help but feel in our culture we are hindered somewhat in our non-learned experience of goodbyes. As a child I was given Birthdays, celebrated the year that was coming; When new friends arrived at school, I was presented with the name and told to “go and be nice”. At the moment my bottom lip wobbled when friends were leaving the school, I was quickly reassured that everything would be ok and I would make a new friend.
We live in a disposable culture, things come and go. Loved teddy bears can be quickly replaced with a 5 minute plea on social media. Friendships are ended with hectic and stressful last minute “go well” parties, or as I like to call them “happy funerals”, with the new form of contact being sealed automatically “we will skype every week”.
And to some extent, that’s all great – I love that I can reach out to long distance relationships via my i-phone. Though every time I do so, I do it with a lump in my throat. A lump that still clings on to the moments when I could reach out and touch my dear friend.
The grieving cycle is a process which most therapists will talk about at some point, it is easy to blend the word Grief with the physical death of someone In the therapy world however,we acknowledge that there is a given path we must all tread when we let go of someone, things, places, houses, life states etc etc.
When I was training, I learnt that I had a voice.
That sounds both typically and annoyingly “therapy”, as well as utterly ridiculous. When I mean is, I really learnt I had a voice. I realised that the words that went on in my head, the feelings that rippled up and down my spine, the merge of stuff that sat in the bottom of my belly – all had a sound. And that if I was brave enough; I could let that sound form words and become a voice.
I remember the day that I qualified and was finally able to look my husband in the eye and speak the feeling that filled my being each time I was with him. “I love you”, the sound said and I fully meant it.
But I notice again and again, how stuck I am; WE ARE, when it comes to sounding out those words that happen when you realise you are about to say goodbye to something.
Let’s come back to my long distance friendship. I knew she was going months before she left. I was frightened; this person who was so important to me was about to go. Would that mean the friendship would go, would it change, what would that look like, what now!. And right at the pit of my stomach, a little voice that peeped up “HAVE I BEEN AS IMPORTANT TO YOU AS YOU HAVE BEEN TO ME?”.
But did I say any of that? Heck no, it felt too shameful – too childlike – I would make her feel guilty for going, she would just laugh at me…… And after all, as a little girl I had learnt that I would make a new friend given time.
So every time I pick up the phone and hear her lovely voice, and remember those wonderful memories. The seconds evaporate yet each one holds an hour of times when this dear friendship has meant the world to me. And in each sentence, the question still remains – Have I been as important to you as you have to me ?
Id like to start a revolutionary way of saying goodbye. Lets stop doing it over the phone, lets have the sending off parties – but make sure that the place you say goodbye is quiet enough for the vulnerable questions that are sticking at the back of your throat.
How about we listen deeply to our parents when they are difficult about leaving their house, and really hear that the house contains important memories that they want to know mattered to all of us. When my friend tells me she is moving overseas I want her to know how important our friendship was – I will probably cry because I care that much. And she, might just be able to find the words to tell me that I’m important too.
What would change ? how would it be the next time I picked up the phone, how would it be for my parents to walk past our historical childhood home having been reassured that it was a great place for us too ? I think it would be easier – I believe we quieten the voice inside ourselves that longs for our experiences to have impacted the world somehow. Perhaps if we started using our mouths and not our keyboards to say “You matter, this matters, it mattered”, then we will all start learning………………. WE MATTER.