By Dr. Nancy Fishman / Morgan Hill, Calif.
Wow! We were just getting to know each other and now we have to say goodbye, at least for the time being.
It has been my privilege and pleasure to have been included on The Insider’s roster of writers. As the publication comes to an end, I reflect on the importance of Andrea Sachs’ mission to create a forum for bringing people together during the pandemic.
At a time of uncertainty for most, and isolation and loneliness for many, The Insider has offered interesting topics that exemplified the notion we are all truly connected. Our spirits were lifted, we found our senses of humor, and we were reminded of our humanity. We became a community!
This, being my final column for The Insider, I decided to write about love, loss and goodbyes. Lord Alfred Tennyson wrote: “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” These famous words appeared in In Memoriam A.H.H., a long poem Tennyson wrote after the death of a fellow student at Cambridge. Even as a young man, Tennyson understood that the risk of loving comes with the potential for losing.
Even when we experience the pain associated with loss, the human spirit is resilient. Our need to avoid loneliness by insuring we are connected to others motivates us to choose love again, even at the risk of yet another painful end.
Throughout the life span, we will all sustain many losses. A key characteristic of centenarians is the ability to withstand loss; after all, they outlive most of their contemporaries, including siblings and friends and, frequently, offspring as well.
Do we get better at handling loss as we age? Perhaps we just get used to saying goodbye.
At the age of 21, I adopted an English setter puppy one week after my mother died. Annie was my constant companion for the 11 years of her life. I loved that dog with abandon and couldn’t even say her name without crying for the first two years after her death. I have had many other dogs throughout my life. I have loved and lost them all. The only lesson I learned is that love comes with loss and I had better get used to it.
Relationships of all kinds, including adult love, friendships, and human-to-animal love have inherent risks with precarious pitfalls. It is sometimes shocking to learn that not all relationships are meant to last forever.
For example, the friends we make in our early school years are mostly friends of convenience who may not follow us through life. Sometimes we find friendships in our workplaces or neighborhoods. Later after changing jobs or moving to a new home, those friendships can fade into oblivion. One might ask, “What’s the point of these friendships if they are so vulnerable?” Tennyson reminds us that our lives are enriched by the love (and friendship) that graces our years.
My life before the age of 21 was punctuated by a slew of losses. I had no idea I was practicing a crucial life skill, the art of saying goodbye. Certainly there is no comparison between losing a pet and losing a parent, yet there are ways we can prepare ourselves for significant loss of all intensities.
Having a state of mind that is based in reality is absolutely necessary. The notions that we all die, that nothing stays the same, and that much of our existence is totally out of our control, are truths we need to accept in preparation for sad times. Some rely on their faith and the explanations offered for loss. Others have had positive interactions with mediums, who provide a window into the afterlife, which can be comforting.
Taking some preemptive action to prepare for goodbyes can be very helpful. One example is planning your own retirement party to say your farewells in a way that works best for you. This may assure that you bring closure to one chapter of your life before starting the next.
Another example is the anticipation of a family or friend’s death due to illness. Ask that person if they would like to talk about saying goodbye. If they are willing, that conversation can be therapeutic for both of you.
A last example is having a child leave home to go away to college. This separation is usually preceded by the parents and the teenager feeling very annoyed with each other, easing the need to part.
As we say goodbye to The Insider, we surely must be grateful for the time we had. We were entertained, educated, and enriched during its run.
Personally, I thank Andrea Sachs for brilliant editing, and Matt Nadelson for technical contributions and layouts. I thank all the readers who expressed appreciation for the writers’ efforts.
My sisters, who are both accomplished writers, and I live on a family compound. We are currently working on establishing a blog. Please send your email address to NancyFishmanPhD@icloud.com
if you would like to be notified when we launch.
As always, be well, connect with others, keep love alive, and do good work out there! Goodbye for now!
Nancy Fishman, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist, consultant, and author. Visit her website for an extended biography and more information: www.NancyFishmanPhD.com