Coping with Loss & Grief
Module 2 page 4
The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again. — Charles Dickens
I still remember my excitement as I left my home town in the Blue Mountains with my Dad aboard the early morning express train. That day I would enrol in a new school in Sydney and would live with people whom I had never met.
It was all a great adventure. The train trip from the mountains, the mystery and size of Sydney, a new school and friends, and most of all, being grown up and doing all this myself.
After registering at the school and meeting the lady with whom I was to board, it was time for my Dad to leave and return to the farm.
It might have been better if he had said goodbye then and there. But, instead he encouraged me to go with him into the city to 'see him off' as he left for home. At this point my excitement suddenly turned to panic. I was to be left alone in Sydney with its trams, trains and traffic, in a city where the people seemed to care only about themselves.
I desperately tried to learn how to read the train destination indicator at Central Station, how to find the right platform and how to be there on time. My greatest fear was whether I could find my way back to the place where I was to board. When Dad was convinced that I had 'the hang of it', we caught a tram and went off to buy my school books.
On our way back to Central Station we had our photo taken by a street photographer. I didn't realise how anxious I looked until I saw that photo again after the death of my father. There, standing beside his Dad, clasping his precious books in a brown paper bag, stood this boy dreading the moment of goodbye. I was just thirteen years old. I had put on a 'brave front,' but a good down-to-earth cry at that moment might have done a lot of good. However, teenagers don't cry .... can't cry. I was the essence of boyhood bravery.
I can still see the "4.00 O'clock" from central leaving the platform. I stood there and watched that train with my father aboard, disappearing in a cloud of steam and smoke. Alone, I peered through the wire mesh barrier until I could see the train no more. We had said goodbye, but saying goodbye is not easy.
Seated with my bag of books beside me on board an old 'red rattler' bound for the suburb of my lodgings, I felt alone and deserted. Now, I really was on my own in this unfriendly, hot, smoky, noisy city. As I walked through the park to the street where I was to stay, I heard for the first time the cooing of the city pigeons. They sounded so sad. We didn't have sad birds like that up home in the mountains where I came from. I longed for things to be what they had always been. But life is like that. Changes do come, and goodbyes must be said.
I did not experience those feelings of 'aloneness' again until my Dad died some forty years later. Suddenly I was there again, on the street before the photographer, peering through the wire mesh barrier and rattling along in that old suburban train. I even heard the sad song of the pigeons. But this time the goodbye was real, all too real. Thank God it will not be not forever.
Saying goodbye can be a shattering experience. The pain of knowing that there will be no more reunions in this life is paralysing. We wonder how we will ever manage to go on. But we do.
We must say goodbye if ever there is to be real healing
Looking back on a relationship and looking forward in hope through thinking, writing, talking and weeping is essential to saying goodbye. Celebration of the relationship precedes the termination of the relationship.
People often withdraw when it comes to saying goodbye
People withdraw mostly because they do not understand the process. They are not being asked to say goodbye to memories. These are priceless jewels secured in the treasure chest of the heart.
Often a person who has lost someone is told by good meaning people not to think of the deceased, but to put him or her out of mind. They say that to think of the deceased is "not good for you." This is poor counsel. We must give, or have permission to recall and relive the wonderful memories.
It's OK to remember
Memories are memorials to the deceased worthwhileness. Memories are painful at first, but as adjustment takes place they become great memorials to the worthwhileness of that person's life.
Abrupt goodbyes are not wise
To abruptly say goodbye to the person, is not wise, for the personality and character of the lost loved one will be incorporated into the fabric of the life of the person who grieves. Our lifestyles will have elements of the relationship in them which are irreversibly stamped by the influence of the person who has departed.
Parents who lose a child and attempt to say goodbye suddenly can be in for painful surprises. Expressions and mannerisms have a habit of reappearing in their other children. Saying goodbye to person suddenly is not realistic
When a person has no hope of ever seeing his or her loved again the path to recovery is much harder.
No one has the right to take away another person's hope
Jesus' caring was a ministry of hope and encouragement. His teachings about the resurrection of those who die in Him is a message of grand hope.
If a person is not encouraged to say goodbye to their memories, then to what is he or she encouraged to say goodbye. The person needs to be encouraged to say goodbye to the relationship as it once existed but can no longer exist in this lifetime.
When a relationship comes to an end the lack of response is frustrating. Needs which the relationship once met can no longer be met. This results in mounting anxiety, loneliness and depression. Experience shows that it is possible for these to last for long periods of time.
Saying goodbye a little at a time, in bits and pieces as it were, is far more realistic and therapeutic
It is practical to begin saying goodbye to the part of the relationship that is the least important and then gradually move on to the most important parts.
Saying goodbye aloud to the person who has been was lost can be therapeutic
Vocalising the goodbye adds definiteness to the process. This helps bring acceptance of the loss on all other levels.
It is very logical to address the missing person
To some, saying goodbye aloud to the various parts of the relationship is very difficult. If this is so, then the person can write out the goodbyes, one at a time, and at the right times, read them out aloud. All are individuals and there is a way that can be found to suit every person. The important thing is that the goodbyes be gradually said and realised.
A goodbye may have to be said several times before the pain begins to mellow
It is not that the goodbye process is not happening, it is that the parting takes time with special, deep, intimate parts of the relationship.
Saying goodbye is painful
Many reasons not to say goodbye can be found. But don't give in to reason. Make a start at saying goodbye even when you don't want to.
Resistance hinders healing
If peace and healing don't come readily, be persistent in saying goodbye until the pain eases. It will ease.
Ultimately the time will come for the final goodbye
The final goodbye will be easier if the former goodbyes have been adequately said.
The bottom line to good recovery is to begin to say goodbye. Until you do, you will be unable to say hello to new relationships.