Have you said goodbye?

I’m preparing to teach my last class of the semester tomorrow, and watching (for about the eighth time) Vanessa Reid’s talk on “conscious closure.”

I find myself sitting with a familiar mix of emotions for this time of year. As recently as yesterday, I felt an urgency for the semester to be over, wondering why I had (again) taken on multiple jobs at once, what was I trying to prove by agreeing to do this course when I continue to be so tired, and so on. And yet here I am today, already missing the students and feeling restless about telling them goodbye. 

When we talk about loss and grief (and let’s be honest: we don’t talk nearly enough about either), we usually mean big losses, heart-wrenching grief. 

But I think the small losses add up. 

We’ve all had many of these – especially lately – even if such loss feels too indulgent or exaggerated to acknowledge. A few examples from the last couple of years:

  • attending birthday parties, weddings, anniversaries
  • going somewhere on vacation
  • a (however misguided) belief that making plans meant we would be able to carry them out
  • running into someone at an event who I appreciate but haven’t seen lately
  • passing someone in the aisle of a grocery store without wondering whether I’m walking the wrong direction
  • certainty that there’s only one physical place from which we should do our jobs

These losses are not earth-shattering. But when they happen repeatedly, at the same time as more difficult experiences, and over a prolonged period…I wonder. I wonder if we’ve done enough to process our feelings.

I have to think not, based on how many people have told me stories of seemingly unexplained fatigue or out-of-character behaviours. I have to think not, based on how quick-to-anger many of us are. 

Imagine the conversations we might have had if Will Smith had started sobbing his frustration onto the Oscar’s stage instead of hitting someone. Or if people held rallies to acknowledge each other’s fear rather than to shout and cast blame.

I know I’ve had many moments lately where my reactions came out angry and impatient when I’d have been better served by a really good cry. 

I’m a believer that tears are cleansing, and yet I haven’t shed any in months. I just keep marching on, and I know many of you are too. 

But if we don’t say let ourselves say a healthy goodbye to some of the little losses that add up, how can we say hello to whatever comes next? 

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