One of the biggest fears people have is of endings. Saying goodbye to people, places and things is an important endeavor. It is an essential element of growth. Everything has a beginning, middle and an end. The pattern of every type of gathering has an opening and at some point closure. This brings work, relationships, and even our belongings to a natural cycle of completion.
While endings can bring sadness, they can also bring relief. Anyone who has experienced the process of witnessing death and dying has had an opportunity to experience both the pain of the loss as well as in many cases the relief of the end of suffering. This is precisely why abrupt and unanticipated death of a loved one can be so harrowing. We did not have a chance to say goodbye. We did not have a chance to reconcile the change that is about to occur. We did not have a chance to complete our relationship in a meaningful way. There is no relief, because we did not have an opportunity to sit with the pain of the impending loss.
The Therapeutic Cycle
At its core leaving a job, a relationship, a residence or even one’s belongings can bring up the intense feelings of fear and loss akin to grief. It is my sincere belief that there is healing power in the completion of tasks associated with relationships, places and things. A theme shows up in the work lives of therapists. We start our work with someone, we are in the process of “the work” with someone, and then at some point our “work” is finished. We don’t always know if there will be formal last session; or if the work will be interrupted, never to be continued again. It is for this reason that no work should ever be rushed. Instead, each session should be given its own cycle of completion.
Ending a session should involve some type of “wrap up.” It doesn’t need to be grand gesture. However, it should be an acknowledgment of what was discussed or accomplished, a reminder of what the focus should be during the time between sessions and if necessary a follow up on sending any resources offered.
Layers of Endings
When therapists leave a job or close a practice, a part of their responsibility is making sure that those they served have another provider if needed or that there is a smooth transition to whoever is stepping into that role. In addition to the transition to another, there is an opportunity for a healthy goodbye. A healthy goodbye is an intentional one. It is a goodbye that connotes a belief in the individual or group that they can continue on their journey without you and be just fine. Ultimately the intention of therapy is that the person/client will be impacted in their day-to-day life positively without our continued surveillance and facilitation. Your work has layers of endings: once when you stopped formerly seeing the individual, and last when the integration of all they have taken from the work is complete.
Coming to Terms with the Finite Nature of Things
True completion comes long after our formal work is done. There is power in endings. There is power in goodbye. As emotionally wrought as endings can be, it is due to the power of the finite nature of things. In fact, anything that is important matters because it is finite…finished; at some point all things come to an end. The sooner that we don’t view that as awful, the sooner we have an opportunity to push beyond the fear of goodbye and live in the present moment, being receptive to what it has to share with us.
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