I hate endings. I think I always have. Whether that’s finishing a course with people, finishing a visit to a friend that I haven’t seen for a while or ending a 23 year marriage. All endings I hate. I’ve never really investigated why. I didn’t lose much in my early childhood. My grandparents all died before I was born or before I could remember them and we didn’t really experience much trauma as a family, relatively speaking.
As I’ve grown though I’ve noticed the ending part of anything is something I dread. I would much rather slip away and pretend I had said goodbye.
I know why my children find it so hard. They have had terrible losses in their short lives and have been forced to say goodbye unexpectedly and without the ability to finish well. They may always be reluctant to leave a situation or be more reluctant to fully enter in, with the anticipation of having to end.
So, what about me? Why would it be so difficult for me and possibly for you too?
If, like me, you have had a secure attachment experience it may be something else. Maybe the insecurity of not knowing if people will miss you, or the embarrassment and awkwardness of hugging or not hugging, or something else?
When I think about my children though, and others like them, I do worry about those endings and how I can make those easier for them. We are running up to end of term and transition may be difficult. Recently I sent our transition guide which I hope helped you in this but how about just considering the immediate ending of this term?
For some they may be excited to be at home and to not have to think about school and the challenges it brings. I’ve been in an ASD school today in London training for the day and recognising the challenges around endings for those with special needs is really important. Considering what makes a good ending is essential.
So, what makes a good ending?
- Being clear that what you have shared together has been significant. You may want to show that in a card, photo, or memento. Even if you’ve not known the young person for long, knowing that they have made a positive impact on you as an adult could be powerful for their self-esteem and for your future relationship.
- Reflect on how the year has been for them. Spend some time looking back and marking those achievements and special moments together.
- Reassure them that you will not forget them. If they are coming back next year give them a transitional object to take with them and bring back next term. If not, tell them that whenever something happens that is special to them, you will remember them i.e. when Villa plays next I will think of you.
- Allocate a protected time to say goodbye. There is nothing worse than a rushed, last minute goodbye for a child or young people who has an insecure attachment. They may not want the long, drawn-out goodbye (I wouldn’t either), but they need to know they are important enough for us to create that time just for them. It may be 15 minutes or an hour, it doesn’t really matter. It’s the thought that you have considered their feelings so much so that you have carved out time for them.
- Know the person well enough to know what kind of goodbye they would appreciate. We don’t all like the fuss and particularly not vulnerable children and young people. But they will appreciate you tailoring your goodbye to suit them and not to suit you. However, they want to say goodbye make it a priority to end well. It will benefit the child and you and your relationship together.
So, I will struggle to make sense of my own avoidance and resistance around goodbyes and endings. But I do know that they are important and when you’ve had so many significant endings over the years they are even more important.
As you say your goodbyes this week remember this – we all need to end well so that we can start well in the future.