Welcome 😊 to a lesson on “saying good-bye”! Please, get comfortable.
Let’s start with prayer:
Heavenly Father, you taught us that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from your mouth. Your word, Father, is food for our soul. Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blest. Amen
Question: “What are some unique and creative ways we say good-bye to one another when we move away, leave a job or club or church, go on vacation or on a mission trip?”
Retirement parties are normal occurrences. Often we have fun, and the retiree is honored and recognized for all the years of service. This get-together is also an opportunity for good-byes to be shared.
But good-byes happen also without parties:
When a friend leaves or relatives go home or a good worker retires, there is sadness in our good-byes. Every loss in life needs the recognition that the connection is broken and life will be different.
In death, the funeral service is recognition of the person leaving and provides an opportunity for the mourners to say good-bye.
Sometimes mourners feel a lingering sadness because to their taste, others failed to say “good-bye” in a proper way. Perhaps to their taste:
- Not enough friends responded with written condolence cards.
- Friends and acquaintances are unwilling to talk about the loss.
- The marker on the grave site was either delayed for weeks, or did not meet expectations.
- The person conducting the service failed to make the service meaningful for the mourners because of a lack of information.
In other situations similar problems can occur delaying completion of a person’s grief:
- A lack of recognition or even ignoring the person retiring or leaving work or a club or a church.
- A pet that ran away or was stolen. There is no closure, no good-bye.
- Others down-playing the significance of your loss, possibly meaning to be helpful (“Look at the bright side . . .”, “It wasn’t THAT bad.”). We do this especially with kids.
Being able to say good-bye helps us move toward a sense of closure and brings back some feeling of control over our life.
When you say good-bye, you are acknowledging that you are no longer going to share your life with whatever you lost, whether it be a job, a place, a person, a dream or even a part of your body. You will always have the memory but now you acknowledge that you will live without whatever it was you lost.
But, what helps one person through grief may not be meaningful to others.
- Some parents who experience miscarriage simply move on with their life and have no real need for good-bye. Others have a memorial service.
- Women who had an abortion years ago often have a memorial service as recognition of the death of a child, later.
- A woman with an inoperable, malignant brain tumor stood in front of her bathroom mirror and held and caressed her long hair and said good-bye to it. Later, when she underwent radiation therapy, it was easier for her to accept the loss of all her hair because she had held a private, brief good-bye ceremony.
- Another woman in a similar situation cut off her long hair herself before treatment started. It gave her a measure of control.
- There are those who have driven back to the location of a former place of employment, stood in front of the building and said good-bye. Sometimes because they felt sentimental over positive memories, other times out of anger.
“I Need Help”
Please, write on a piece of paper to whom or to what have you already said good-bye to in your life? And, is there something or someone you need to say good-bye to in your life?
Take your time.
One of the better ways of saying good-bye to many kinds of losses is in writing. And you might be surprised at the different kinds of letters that have been written. A letter is a good way to express intense feelings of loss. It may be an angry letter, or one full of joy, or full of sadness.
- One person wrote to a friend who was about to die of cancer, expressing his great appreciation for his friend.
- Another sent a good-bye letter to her elementary school teacher who she had hoped would teach her own children but who was now retiring.
- One former addict wrote a farewell letter to his drugs telling them good-bye and describing what problem they had been for him.
- A woman wrote a good-bye letter to one of her breasts after a mastectomy. This kind of loss is often very traumatic for a woman, especially a young woman, and is usually accompanied by an extended time of depression and mourning.
Over years, numerous people have written letters to a deceased friend, spouse, child, parent, brother or sister or any other significant person. It helps to bring home the reality that the person is gone.
Saying good-bye is not morbid or a sign of hysteria or being out of control. It is a healthy way to make the transition into the next phase of life.
How do you go about saying good-bye? (Chapter 6 in your book, page 95 bottom)
1) First of all you take time. Identify what you think needs to be expressed in your good-bye.
What are the actual words you want to say?
What words would express your appreciation, your regrets, or complete something that was never finished between the two of you?
2) Then, in privacy, write a good-bye letter or talk out loud to the person or to whatever you’ve lost. If your letter is to a loved one who has died, use the name you used most of the time in your life with this person.
One divorcee actually wrote a letter to her marriage and addressed it as though the loss were a real person.
You can address a good-bye letter to a lost dream, to a lost hope, to a business venture, or even to a change in your vocational life. Indicate that it is a good-bye letter and then share what you want to say.
The more regrets and ‘if only’s you have, the more important your letter can be since this is your opportunity to express what was never verbalized.
Let your letter rest for a day and then read it again, to yourself or aloud or to someone you trust. In the book, ‘Recovering From the Losses of Life’, you have some touching sample letters, in chapter 6.
Question: Have you written a letter like this? If so, what happened when you did? Think of someone or some situation to whom you need to write a good-bye letter.
Write it down.
1) In writing a good-bye letter it is vital to be completely truthful.
Remember that your point and intention of this exercise is to complete your emotional relationship with whatever or whomever you lost.
2) But the timing is very important. It should not be done prematurely. If there are still resentments (anger) existing between you and whoever the person is who left your life, they need to be identified and relinquished. Identify incomplete business between you and the person. This could involve:
a) Making amends
b) Offering forgiveness
c) Expressing significant emotional statements (I miss you, I love you)
a) Making amends is not only saying you’re sorry but changing your responses. You can be sorry for something you did or for something you wished you had done or said. If you can think of any right now, write them down.
*One man wrote, “I wished I had been less negative and critical and more verbally appreciative. Now I’m making sure that I give 2 or 3 affirmations or compliments for every criticism or concern I express.”
*One woman wrote, “I wish I had told you more often how special you were to me. At least I’ve started doing this more with other people.”
b) Forgiveness. The second step is identifying those areas where forgiveness was needed. Can you think of any, even at this time? If so, write them down.
It’s important to identify the reasons for not forgiving someone for some incident.
One way to do this is by identifying in writing the objections to forgiving the person:
- Take a piece of paper and write the person’s name on the top.
- Below the name write a salutation as in a letter, Dear …..
- Make 2 columns.
- In the left column, under the salutation write, “I forgive you for …”, then complete the sentence by writing down everything that has bothered you over the years.
- Then try to capture your immediate thought that comes to mind after writing the statement of forgiveness. Often it is a rebuttal or objection to forgiving that person, like “Ya’ right! Not so quickly! I remember …” Write this down in your right column opposite to your “I forgive you” statement.
- Continue to do this. Keep repeating the process until you have drained all your pockets of resistance and resentment.
- When you come to the place that you can write “I forgive you for . . .” several times with no objections or rebuttals, then forgiveness is occurring. You can find this in your book, chapter 10, pages 172 – 174
- A different style to forgive might be this meditation by Richard Rohr who is a Franciscan monk.
(Perhaps visit ‘Center for Action and Contemplation’ https://cac.org/ ) This is not in your book.
He writes: Forgiveness is an act of letting go. When we forgive we do not forget the harm someone caused or say that it does not matter. But we release bitterness and hatred, freeing ourselves to move on and make choices grounded in our strength rather than victimization. Forgiveness opens our closed hearts to give and receive love fully.
Jack Kornfield offers a wonderful meditative practice of forgiveness:
Allow your eyes to close and your breath to be natural and easy. Let your body and mind relax. Breathing gently into the area of your heart, let yourself feel all the barriers you have erected and the emotions that you have carried because you have not forgiven—not forgiven yourself, not forgiven others . . . .
Let yourself feel the pain of keeping your heart closed.
Then, breathing softly, begin asking and extending forgiveness, reciting the following words, letting the images and feelings that come up grow deeper as you repeat them.
Asking Forgiveness of Others
Recite: “There are many ways that I have hurt and harmed others, have betrayed or abandoned them, caused them suffering, knowingly or unknowingly, out of my pain, fear, anger, and confusion.” Let yourself remember and visualize the ways you have hurt others. See and feel the pain you have caused out of your own fear and confusion. Feel your own sorrow and regret. Sense that finally you can release this burden and ask for forgiveness. Picture each memory that still burdens your heart. And then to each person in your mind repeat: “I ask for your forgiveness, I ask for your forgiveness.”
Offering Forgiveness to Yourself
Recite: “There are many ways that I have hurt and harmed myself. I have betrayed or abandoned myself many times through thought, word, or deed, knowingly and unknowingly.” Feel your own precious body and life. Let yourself see the ways you have hurt or harmed yourself. Picture them, remember them. Feel the sorrow you have carried from this and sense that you can release these burdens. Extend forgiveness for each of them, one by one. Repeat to yourself: “For the ways I have hurt myself through action or inaction, out of fear, pain, and confusion, I now extend a full and heartfelt forgiveness. I forgive myself, I forgive myself.”
Offering Forgiveness to Those Who Have Hurt or Harmed You
Recite: “There are many ways that I have been harmed by others, abused or abandoned, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word, or deed.” Let yourself picture and remember these many ways. Feel the sorrow you have carried from this past and sense that you can release this burden of pain by extending forgiveness whenever your heart is ready. Now say to yourself: “I now remember the many ways others have hurt or harmed me, wounded me, out of fear, pain, confusion, and anger. I have carried this pain in my heart too long. To the extent that I am ready, I offer them forgiveness. To those who have caused me harm, I offer my forgiveness, I forgive you.”
Let yourself gently repeat these three directions for forgiveness until you feel a release in your heart. For some great pains you may not feel a release but only the burden and the anguish or anger you have held. Touch this softly. Be forgiving of yourself for not being ready to let go and move on. Forgiveness cannot be forced; it cannot be artificial. Simply continue the practice and let the words and images work gradually in their own way. In time you can make the forgiveness meditation a regular part of your life, letting go of the past and opening your heart to each new moment with a wise loving-kindness.
c) The last section involves significant emotional statements that usually involve things you wish you could have said. It’s as though you want one last conversation with the person.
Statements could include:
I appreciate . . .
I was so proud of . . .
It meant so much to me . . .
Thank you for . . .
You were so special at . . .
Can you think of any at this time? Write them down if you do. Give yourself some time to do this.
3.) Now you are ready to write your letter. It is best to write it alone, with no disruptions. Some persons complete it in one complete session. Others stretch it out in a series of letters over months as the example in the book, in chapter #6. And you may feel pain and you may cry. That is normal.
4./5.) Write the letter as though the person were still living and could hear you reading the letter to them. Be as thorough as possible. Some people try to imagine what the person might say in response to you. You will know that you are finished writing when you can say, “I love you”, and feel there is nothing more to say.
6.) If possible read and share your letter with another significant person in your life who will listen and not interrupt in any way. Then read your letter and as you do, let yourself experience the emotions that arise.
7.) At the conclusion of your letter say Good-bye.
This involves every aspect of the relationship:
- any emotional incompleteness,
- any pain,
- any lack of forgiveness,
- the physical relationship
- every part of the relationship
There are other ways to express goodbye. Here are a few examples:
- You can send a contribution to a church or charity in the name of the person as an acknowledgment.
- You can set up a living and lasting memorial through a scholarship.
- You can set up a living and lasting memorial by planting a flower garden or a tree.
- You could donate a painting and /or have a plaque made.
When a person dies, then for us this is a matter of having to say good-bye, but for them it is at the same time a matter of being able to say “Hello” to their Lord. This is why our feelings can sometimes be a mixture – we are saddened for our loss but there is also a sense of joy for what the deceased person is now experiencing.
We have a void in our lives but the deceased person’s life is now full and complete. Death is a transition, a tunnel leading from this world into the next, a door into another room. There are many ways that this transition can be described.
As we grieve, the reality of our loss often overshadows the reality of where our loved one is. The emotions sweep over us like a flood drowning out the knowledge which in the future will become clearer and will become a source of strength for us. Along the way we need reminders of the meaning of death from the biblical perspective.
In Max Lucado’s inspirational book ‘The Applause of Heaven’, he concludes with a chapter on going home. He describes his conclusion to a long trip and finally arriving home at the airport. His wife and 3 daughters are excited that he’s home. That’s like arriving in heaven.
In Revelation 21:1-5, we have the Apostle John’s description of what our home-going will be like: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
John says that someday God will wipe away your tears.
The same hands that stretched the heavens will touch your cheeks.
The same hands that formed the mountains will caress your face.
The same hand that curled in agony as the Roman spike cut through will someday cup your face and brush away your tears forever.
When you think of a world where there will be no reason to cry, ever, doesn’t it make you want to go home?
“There will be no more death . . .” John declares. Can you imagine it? A world without morgues or cemeteries or tombstones? Can you imagine a world with no spades of dirt thrown on caskets? No names chiseled into marble? No black dresses? No black wreathes?
In the next world, John says, ‘good-bye’ will never be spoken.
Every person on earth is appointed at some time to die. We fear it, we resist it, we try to postpone it. But we cannot keep our loved ones from dying. We cannot keep ourselves from dying. But, we can choose to see “dying” from God’s perspective.
Max Lucado concludes his book ‘The Applause of Heaven’, with what home-going means in a new perspective:
“Before you know it, your appointed arrival time will come; you’ll descend the ramp and enter the City. You’ll see faces that are waiting for you. You’ll hear your name spoken by those you love. And, maybe, just maybe -in the back, behind the crowds – the One who would rather die than live without you will remove his pierced hands from his heavenly robe and . . . applaud.”
Yes, if you have a loved one who died, then he or she is saying hello.
You have said good-bye to them – for now. And for now and for here on earth, you will soon say hello to a new day, to a future, to a life without them. But, only for now!
Let us pray together: Dear Lord Jesus, for Your silent sacrifice You have my adoration. When I am fighting against being upset and frustrated, resentful and holding grudges, angry and short-tempered, sulking and withdrawn, keep me ever mindful of your love which endured the cross and rose to new LIFE. Amen.
Please, read chapter 6 in your book “Recovering from the Losses of Life” before you continue the next session. May you be blessed as you work thru this session!