Man’s feelings are always purest and most glowing in the hour of meeting and of farewell — Jean Paul Richter, writer, 1763-1825
At HOPE Connection, we have a tradition that we encourage every group member to participate in. It is the simple act of saying goodbye to other group members and the group therapist when a member moves from one group to the next.
In the early groups, One, Two and sometimes even Three, members often take goodbyes lightly. “Goodbye! See you next week!” or, “Oh, this isn’t really goodbye. I’ll see you at dinner!”
But gradually, people gain an appreciation for the complexity of a goodbye. The purpose is simply to acknowledge that we were forced to say goodbye to our spouses. Sometimes these goodbyes are expressed without words, sometimes they’re expressed after a spouse is gone — often a lonely goodbye directed to a photograph, a headstone or in our hearts.
Slowly, we gain the realization that every time we say goodbye to anyone — a loved one, a colleague, an acquaintance — it’s a sacred moment and an opportunity. It’s a sobering thought but the reality is that we may never have that opportunity again. It’s also an opportunity to tell someone your feelings and thoughts in that moment about their impact on life… your life.
Even when you know (or believe you know) you’ll be seeing someone again, saying goodbye to a group is truly saying goodbye to a community of individuals who will not gather again in exactly the same way. These specific people gathered at this specific time create a dynamic and a chemistry that will not be repeated. You are saying goodbye to this moment, this dynamic.
By the time people complete the two-year program and participate in all of the groups, they often prepare goodbyes that they read or simply speak to the entire group community, members from all of the current groups. Here is one member’s recent goodbye.
“Two years ago I walked into HOPE believing that my loss was so unlike everyone else’s that there was no way I would continue to return after the first meeting. Little did I know that my life was about to change in many ways that I never could have predicted.
“The name of this group is HOPE Connection. I found hope as I progressed through the various groups, but more importantly I found connections that have truly changed my life. Thank you to all of the wonderful members who inspired me each week with the courage to share their struggles. You are my heroes. I have learned from you that it is important to be more compassionate to people I meet every day because everyone has unspoken adversity of some kind in their lives. I have learned that it is much easier to navigate the sea of grief when you connect with other people who share your journey. I am very lucky to have met many wonderful people during the past two years and I am looking forward to the continuation of these friendships for many years to come.
“I want to thank the therapists for their guidance and wisdom. The feedback I received from you the past two years has been invaluable. I learned so much from each of you and your continued unwavering support and dedication.
“These are my words of encouragement to those of you who are beginning this journey:
“Always believe that something good can happen even when your world looks dark.
“Be willing to take a chance even when it is frightening.
“Never underestimate your strength and power to make changes.
“A very wise person explained to me that loss is like a hole which we keep falling into and climbing out of until one day we see it and learn to walk around it.
“It is with sincere gratitude that I say goodbye to a remarkable chapter of my life. Thank you.”
Group is not life – it’s a dress rehearsal for life – Julius, from The Schopenhauer Cure, a novel by Dr. Irving Yalom