Two months ago, almost the entire nation watched as Queen Elizabeth II was laid to rest. Tens of thousands of people gathered on the streets of London to catch a glimpse of the funeral procession. There were people in tears. There were also those who had happy conversations about their fond memories of the Queen.
When we think about goodbyes, what is the first thing that comes to mind? For me, it is the time I saw my grandpa off at his funeral over Zoom due to the pandemic. Then I think of my dog and best friend, Gabby, who lived 11 good years and the fact that I was not by his side when he left. The mix of emotions hits hard because of the inevitability of death and the harsh realisation that we will never meet again in this lifetime.
I also think of the other kinds of goodbyes in life that are less morbid, hence not talked about as much.
What about saying goodbye to the living? With friends, family, or even a relationship, a well-loved career or a season in life?
I spoke to a friend many years ago about how she said goodbye to her much-loved university life when she entered the workforce. She went from hanging out regularly with her close friends she met at university to seeing them perhaps once every few months. There were also friends who were international students, who had returned to their home country thousands of miles away. Apart from the annual “happy birthday” or seasonal greetings, they had not truly been able to keep in touch the way they used to.
I asked her whether that meant those friendships may not have been as strong as she once thought. She started to recall the happy memories she and her course mates shared over the years. She then said something I would never forget, “Some people are only in your life for a season, but it is so important to appreciate them when they are here with you.” She had seen the coming and going of many and had learnt how to fully enjoy these friendships, even with the knowledge and albeit with a tinge of melancholy that they may inevitably change or slow down.
“Some people are only in your life for a season.” These words are worth pondering.
Goodbyes are rarely easy and often we need to grieve.
Many of us have heard of the five stages of grief in the Kubler-Ross model. It consists of Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. It is expected to go through these phases when we lose something dear to us. However, those who have grieved know that human emotions do not quite fit into a box like that. We may skip from Denial one day to Depression the next, or even from Acceptance one day back to Anger the next.
Grief looks different for each person. It is okay if someone may sometimes feel sad or angry years after the event. It is also okay if someone may feel happy a few months after the event. There is no timeline to adhere to when it comes to grief. It can be tempting to fall into the trap of toxic positivity, where we don’t want to acknowledge supposedly “inferior” emotions. Choosing to ignore how you feel or numbing yourself may mean that healing is delayed or worse, never truly comes.
Goodbyes are often not a one-time affair. However you choose to grieve, remember that it is not a linear process, but a journey to be taken at a pace you are comfortable with.
I’ll end with the lyrics from Taylor Swift’s song “Happiness”.
“There’ll be happiness after you,
But there was happiness because of you,
Both of these things can be true,
There is happiness. ”