Written by Michele Chandler, LCSW
Friendship is a common theme that has emerged amongst many of my female clients in recent months as they navigate their way through the feelings of isolation during the pandemic. While this issue has been explored with clients in the past, it seems that the effort to avoid social gatherings has put many relationships to the test. This brought to mind the writing of Melody Beattie on the topic which resonated with me when I was struggling with my own sense of loss of close friends. She suggested when a friendship comes to an end, we “Say Good-bye with an Open Heart”.
I would also suggest that we strive to view saying goodbye as an opportunity. On our journey through life we meet many souls with whom we interact, share our lives and exchange energy in a way that enhances our growth and theirs. We learn lessons together, we share experiences, we share love and we share sorrow. But there often comes a time to say good-bye. A good-bye can come suddenly, unexpectedly, without much warning – caused by harsh words, a misunderstanding or hurtful behavior. Or a good-bye can be expected, planned on, and take a while to work out – such as when a friend moves away or the relationship slowly deteriorates. The length of time doesn’t matter. What matters is how we handle our good-byes. We can do it with our hearts open, saying thank-you for all we’ve experienced and learned together. Or we can close our hearts and bitterly say we have lost again. We can say good-bye with an attitude of trust, faith and love, believing our hearts led us together, for the time we were close, to celebrate life and further our journeys. There was a time and a purpose to the friendship. Or we can do it with harsh judgement, asking why and what’s “wrong” with us that our paths didn’t let us stay together. We can say good-bye with emotion walled off, saying that’s just the way life is, or there must be something wrong with me or with someone else. Or we can say good-bye with our hearts open feeling our sadness, our longing, and our joy.
Sometimes when we say “goodbye”, we can also say “hello.” In life, goodbyes can be a gift. When certain people walk away from you, and certain opportunities close their doors on you, there is no need to hold onto them or pray to keep them present in your life. If they close you out, take it as a direct indication that these people, circumstances and opportunities are not part of the plan for the next step of your life. It’s a hint that your personal growth requires someone different and something more, and life is simply making room. So embrace your goodbyes, because every “goodbye” you receive sets you up for an even better “hello.” We can’t always choose the timing or the circumstances, but we can choose how we perceive the good-bye and we can choose the words of our heart. And sometimes it’s not good-bye, it’s till we meet again.