The single easiest way to see how you feel about someone: say goodbye.
– Phil Knight, Shoe Dog
Saying goodbye brings up a lot of emotions, emotions that we didn’t think we would, or could, feel. Sadness is the obvious one. Why should we have to say goodbye at all? Why can’t things go on forever, or at least until you get bored of them?
Why does there have to be so much change?!
And that brings me to anger.
No one likes change – and yet we’re told it’s the only constant. In fact, Buddhism tells us that we are always in transition, and our ability to truly accept that fact, is what determines our suffering. We know we don’t want to suffer, so why won’t we just let it go? Because we can’t.
The level of resistance is actually surprising. It’s like trying to hold back an avalanche. We know we can’t do it, but we’ll damn well try. But as we try, it makes our hearts weary and begins to block something deep inside. Only with an open heart chakra, do we have the capacity to feel tremendous joy. Some call it bliss, others say that it’s only from this energy centre that true knowing can occur.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross talks about the five stages of grief as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The fact that the denial and bargaining stages are getting shorter for me every time I do say goodbye, well, I see it as a sign of progress. I wish I could whizz through the other stages too, but this is just the part of me that wants everything yesterday. I don’t want to sit with an emotion. I don’t want to hear that age-old adage “this too shall pass”.
Even though they can sometimes threaten to drown you, I know that emotions can’t kill you. They can’t kill me. They can just make me more resilient. They remind me, at the very core, that grief is the purest emotion that there is - and grief is simply love with nowhere to go.
So the next time you have to say goodbye, go easy on yourself. It might be your best friend, your favourite shirt, your grandmother or the country you’ve lived in all your life.
When asked what she would do now that her best friend was no longer in school with her, my 7 year-old daughter replied “I’ll just make more friends”. She taught me more about acceptance in that single statement than all the books on spirituality I’ve read. It was that simple for her and I realised that when I am faced with something that I can’t stomach, I need to make it that simple for myself too. The problem isn’t what’s happening; it’s my reaction to it.
And with that, I end with the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.