Friday was my last day at the place I worked. I spent much of the day saying goodbye, something that I hate to do. I had been working at a senior care center as a volunteer coordinator and so I had the residents, staff and my volunteers to say goodbye to over the last few days that I worked. I found it to be very emotionally draining. I came home exhausted and went to bed early.
Some of the people that I expected might be the most upset about me leaving were the ones that took it the best, at least it appeared that way. Other individuals that I thought would not care that much reacted with much more emotion. One of the residents at the center grabbed my hand and was very tearful. My heart clenched.
We never really know how goodbyes are going to be accepted by those who are on the receiving end. If the other person has recently undergone another major loss in their life, our leaving may be a reminder and may trigger unresolved grief. Endings that come during the holidays are even more apt to bring up emotions, as we're reminded of loved ones who are no longer in our lives.
There are some people that, facing a loss, go into a state of denial. There are those that withdraw, maybe to the point of not having any contact with the person who is leaving. For them, goodbye is so painful that they would just rather not deal with it.
Those leaving behave differently also. Some refuse to say anything and leave quietly, leaving those behind feeling hurt and wondering why they didn't bother to say goodbye.
Goodbyes are a chance for us to share with others what they have meant to us. When we leave without giving others the chance to share their feelings, we are doing them a disservice as well as ourselves.
Most of us don't like goodbyes, whether we're the one being left or the one leaving, but goodbyes are a part of life. There are healthy ways to handle goodbyes, however. The most important thing is to acknowledge our feelings. Rather than deny the pain and sadness that we are feeling, it helps to actually say, "I'm feeling sad." Be willing to feel the emotions that are involved. Sometimes there is anger in addition to the pain and sadness. That is normal. Part of being human is to have emotions. The important thing is to experience and process the feelings, whatever they are, and then move on. If we stay stuck in the anger or sadness we live in the past.
If there is someone you need to say goodbye to in the future, remember to feel the emotions, share your feelings, and give the person that you're saying goodbye to a chance to share theirs. You may be surprised at the impact that you've had on that person and how much they care about you. It is a healthy way of bringing closure to the relationship. And if someone says goodbye to you, keep in mind that endings always lead to new beginnings.