How Do You Say GoodBye?

How do You say goodbye?

Some people never do, never let go, never move on.  Others avoid saying goodbye by never getting connected to anyone or anything.  They are hit and run artists.  They have developed the art of saying goodbye to saying goodbye.

It seems we all have a goodbye problem.

And yet, we are forever and constantly saying goodbye, whether we to know it or not.  Oh we try and hold on and not let go, but…

He has had an affair.  Is this an attempt to say goodbye?  To what–his marriage, some part of himself that he wants to regain after sacrificing it for the marital relationship?  He says it will never happen again, but he doesn’t know why it happened and doesn’t want to understand why it happened.  He just wants to say goodbye to it and move on.  Maybe he will be able to, but I have my doubts.  He says he is good at moving on and closing chapters.  His wife is tormented by the affair.  She can’t say goodbye to it, and all he wants is for her to let it go so that he can move on.  What are they struggling over?  Perhaps for her it is saying goodbye to the marriage and who she thought her husband was.  What will happen if she says goodbye to this.  What will the next chapter be, the future hold?  Will she have to sacrifice her marriage, say goodbye to it to find a new relationship withher husband?  They are both stuck in a timeless place.  Neither can move or say goodbye.  Perhaps they are uncertain of what they would be saying goodbye to. All they can do is hold onto what they are unwilling to say goodbye to.

Curiously, the affair occurred just at the moment when their last child was about to say goodbye and leave home.  Was this final goodbye a sign, a reminder of their goodbye problem?  A sign of what they had covertly, silently said goodbye to in order to stay married?  What quiet, unheard, unthought, unspoken sacrifices we will make to have a relationship.

The patient came into therapy following a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The accident was witnessed and should have never been seen.  They had other therapy and the recommendation had been made to leave the area where the accident occurred–leave the scene of the crime so to speak.  But this didn’t seem to help much.  In listening to the patient describe the accident, I could see and feel the impact.  They are sitting, waiting at the railroad crossing on their way to work.  The gate is down signalling a train is coming.  They hear the train approach and look down to check the time.  Then they look up to see the collision/impact/explosion.  The train runs headlong into a vehicle.  Bodies go everywhere.  The patient has to get out and helplessly survey the carnage.  The images, sounds, smell of the accident are too much to say goodbye to.  We work for a good while, but they can never say goodbye.  Instead they say goodbye to me and therapy.

I think that this goodbye problem is one reason patients are driven/dragged into therapy.  There is something they need to say goodbye to–a thought, symptom, problem, relationship.  But in my experience this is not really the issue, only the marker of what is hidden and out of sight.  Something grips them, possesses them.  Something overpowering.  Something they can’t let go of and say goodbye to.  There seems to be some in-born reluctance to let go, and instead they continue to suffer.

Perhaps holding on and suffering is preferable to letting go and saying goodbye.  It is as if we all get stuck at some mystical threshold.  We know we need to let go and cross over, but there appears an immense fear and anxiety at the moment of passage.  As if something in us will die .  The image I frequently associate with this is a person at the edge of a cliff.  They know they have to get to the other side, but they are scared.  Once they say goodbye and move on to the other side, they can look back and see their old self across the ravine, alone and desolate.

I remember as a child that my grandparents would take a cruise each winter on the Queen Elizabeth.  I can still see myself at the dock waving goodbye as the Queen Elizabeth leaves port.  I don’t remember that goodbye being upsetting.

But in the following years, there have been an accumulation of goodbyes.  My grandparents, my parents, my wife have all died.  As have portions of myself.  I am not the small boy anymore at dockside waving goodbye, nor am I the dutiful son or devoted husband.  The roles have been easier to shed than the parts of my personality that I have said goodbye to.

On my good days, I accept that saying goodbye is an inevitably painful process which I may be able to endure.  It doesn’t matter if I can endure it or not, the goodbyes will remain waiting for me to have the courage to move on and become someone new.  Perhaps it is a continual chance to re-create myself, if I have the courage to say goodbye.

I finish writing this piece, and step outside.  I haven’t seen Gilda my pet goose in a few days.  She has a broken wing and is recovering from a broken foot.  Recently she has taken to floating in the pool having a good time.  I originally separated her from the other geese for fear that they would attack her because she was injured.  So she had become a favorite pet of mine.  As I step outside, I see Gilda floating in the pool.  She is dead.

Can I say goodbye?

Can You say goodbye?



Dr. Brody

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