Saying goodbye to a pet… gut-wrenching. Saying goodbye to a friend or family member… excruciating. Saying goodbye to what could have been… heartbreaking.
The title says it all. Goodbyes are hard. No matter how many quotes you read, friends you hug or tears you shed, the pain remains. It may get better in time. The sadness may turn from a piercing pain to a dull ache, but it’s still there. It never fully goes away. And I’m so glad it doesn’t. It means we’re human. It means we are still on this earth, feeling the feels and experiencing all that life has to offer.
When we had to say goodbye to our family dog, I thought my heart would never heal. I couldn’t believe the amount of sadness I felt over of a dog (a mildly neurotic one at that). Thankfully, the sadness lifted as the days went on and life ticked by. And then my mom died 7 months later. My mentor, my best friend, and confidant ripped from my life. No matter how hard I fought it or denied it, the fact remained- she was gone. If you’ve ever lost a family member, you know the rollercoaster of emotions that ensue. Sadness, grief, anger, shock, distress, depression, to name a few. Saying goodbye is terribly painful. Yet, somehow, in the midst of all that pain, there is beauty and there is hope.
I’ve experienced a lot of heartbreak in my life, as many of us have. And here’s what I’ve learned – no one is unique in their pain. No matter what you’re going through, someone else on this earth has felt your pain, endured your struggle and experienced your despair. I don’t say that to minimize your pain, I say that to bring you comfort. To remind you that you are never alone. Someone out there has made it through the darkness and reemerged into the light. It may not feel like it right now, but feeling pain is a special gift because, through the pain, you will grow and connect with others in immeasurable ways. You will start to see all the good in people and you will learn to appreciate life in a new and beautiful way.
The days after my mom passed were a blur. But what I do remember is the outpouring of love and support we received from friends, family, colleagues and even strangers. A simple handwritten letter or text message, a home cooked meal, a bouquet of flowers… they all meant the world to me and my family. No gesture went unnoticed. 8 years later, as I think back on that time, though I can certainly remember the pain and emptiness I felt, what stands out to me more is the humanity displayed, the love I felt surrounded by and the faint knowingness that everything would be okay.
Humans are a resilient bunch. We fight many battles (internally and externally). Yet here we stand. Maybe a little beat down, maybe a little tired, maybe a little scared, but still, we march on. A friend and coworker of mine recently and unexpectedly lost her mom. Another one is taking sole care of her father who is fighting stage 4 cancer. Another is trying to start a family while struggling with infertility. Different battles, same heroes. Through their pain, they all display incredible strength and courage. They show up and kick ass at work. They pour themselves into their friends and family. They lend a hand or shoulder to cry on to others in need. I’m willing to bet everyone reading this knows someone in a similar situation. And I’ll venture to guess they are some of the strongest people you know. We may be stupid sometimes (insert political reference here), but man are we resilient.
For years after my mom passed, I had this mild anxiety that constantly lingered like a mosquito buzzing around my head. I think it stemmed from that fact that I feared I would forget her. Forget her witty comments, her smile, and her voice. But more importantly, forget her love. Time itself has proved my fears were unwarranted. Turns out, I couldn’t forget her if I tried. She lives on in my memory as if she were still here today. Every now and then there are still intense moments of grief that wash up and envelop me out of nowhere. But life has shown me that I will weather the storm. In fact, I’ll come out stronger on the other side and I will continue trying to be a woman my mom would be proud of.
I hope that for you. I hope that no matter what kind of goodbye you might be saying, or what kind of struggle you may be facing, you come to realize your own incredible strength. You see and believe how resilient you are and how many people are willing to support you when you fall.
It’s easy to become enslaved by the pain of goodbyes, to want to give up, to let the bitterness take hold. But I promise you, if you open your eyes, ears, and heart, you will come to know, without a doubt, that life is for you and not against you. That there are so many good people that fill this earth and that you are stronger than you give yourself credit for. Keep marching on.