As we come towards the end of 2021 and all the events and memories that this year has brought us – good and bad – I reflect on the ability of saying goodbye, and how sometimes, saying it and letting go can be so very difficult. In this blog, I will be exploring how we can support ourselves in order to be able to approach endings in a healthy manner.
There are different types of goodbyes and they hit us in different ways. Perhaps you are saying goodbye to a close colleague or you are saying goodbye to a loved one who is moving abroad. Perhaps you are reaching the end of a career or the end of a holiday. Each of these can hit us differently and with different intensity.
Manage your ability to be alone
Goodbyes can leave us feeling like we are going to be left alone with no one to turn to. This can be a learnt behaviour from previous relationships or experiences and can further enhance dread of things coming to a close. In order to support such a goodbye, it is helpful to learn to spend time doing things we enjoy doing alone, even before such a separation is on the horizon. This is a skill that teaches us that we do not need to be reliant on another and that we have the ability to be alone if we need to or want to.
Identify ways you can soothe yourself
Goodbyes bring with them various emotions that are difficult, such as anxiety, sadness, disappointment or even anger. Knowing how you can support yourself and deal with such emotions is a skill that can be very helpful when facing goodbyes. Reflect on ways you can take care of yourself when life becomes more challenging. We may need to express our feelings, to go for a long walk, to play with your pet or to listen to music. Such activities can also support us to build our resiliency, that is, our ability to face and cope with challenging situations.
Take the time to process this loss
Saying goodbye brings us face to face with loss. Loss brings with it a whole array of confusing and sometimes opposing emotions, which can leave us feeling lost and uncertain. Such a mixture of emotions is normal when facing an end and taking the time to process such emotions and what this loss means to you are important elements of self-reflection and letting go. Although such processing takes time, it is not indefinite and it will eventually subside. Acknowledge that there will be a time when things will seem less confusing or conflicting and just because it is difficult right now, it doesn’t mean that it will always be so. At the end of the day, goodbyes are a natural part of life and we can take away lots of growing edges from our experiences which we can then utilise when we face new endings in the future.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Petra Borg is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist currently reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy from the Gestalt Therapy Institute Malta (GPTIM) and working at Willingness as a Trainee Psychotherapist. She has experience as a Triage Officer and has also worked closely with Willingness over several years, coordinating the international internship programme and providing support over diverse events and initiatives.
Huston, M. (2014). 5 ways to make goodbyes less painful. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-couch/201407/5-ways-make-goodbyes-less-painful