Are Goodbyes a Sign of Emotional Health?
Can you say goodbye when a relationship ends?
John Bradshaw, an expert in family dysfunction and relationship recovery said you cannot have a healthy relationship until you learn to say goodbye. That's because if you cannot say goodbye, you have lost the ability to choose whether to stay or leave. The fear of ending prevents you from leaving.
In my twenties I avoided goodbyes because they seemed too difficult. I didn't want to hurt someone's feelings. But I felt incomplete when relationships ended. So, my goal became practicing the art of saying goodbye and bringing it into my work.
Where do we learn this stuff?
In childhood, what did you learn about ending relationships? Was it done in person, by email or text, or simply avoided hoping the person would get the message?
In dysfunctional or alcoholic homes ending a relationship is often seen as failure. Maybe you did the opposite and held on until the bitter end. Sometimes, the relationship even got abusive.
How does avoiding goodbyes effect us?
Staying in bad relationships because you don't want to rock the boat or be alone has a price.
You may find that your relationships aren't what you hoped. You start to pull away emotionally because they disappoint you.
Being able to say goodbye face is not the norm. Doing it by email or text is impersonal and doesn't support a healthy ending. Eventually, the losses of each relationship pile up. That's when feeling hopelessness and depressed can surprise you. It doesn't make sense but unfelt losses may be the culprit.
Closure is being able to accept the relationship ending. This often takes years. Not having closure creates unfinished emotions that can spill into the next relationship.
Getting into another relationship quickly happens when you can't handle the grief. No one taught us that feelings of sadness and loss take time to heal. You wonder if the pain will ever end so you decide to look for someone new instead.
Recognize when it's time
When saying goodbye keep the focus on your experience rather than telling someone everything they did wrong or how much they hurt you.
Recognize when it's time to leave. Get the support to carry it out. A trusted friend can offer encouragement. If you feel stuck, counseling offers the emotional support to grieve.
To consciously leave a relationship means embracing the power of choice. Listening to your intuition is part of knowing when to leave. Saying goodbye gives you the chance to acknowledge the relationship and move on. Feeling the sadness is what will help you heal.
If the person is deceased or unreachable, writing a letter helps say your peace. Expressing the hurt helps until acceptance is reached. This takes time and there are no short cuts. Not many people let themselves go through this process because we don't honor lengthly goodbyes in our culture.
I went through this when my dad was dying of cancer. I said the things I wanted to say. We had our goodbyes and I had closure. Then the process of grieving started. The biggest lesson was that by going through the depths of grief, I came out on the other side feeling whole. I had faced my greatest fear.
There are many gifts when you are able to say goodbye, such as a newfound strength, an ability to cope that is waiting for you if you do this work. You can get our joy back and the gain confidence that changes your life for the better!