Saying goodbye is tough but we need to do it anyway

On the last day of Skyros, I always give a talk about saying goodbye because it is such a tricky thing to do. We all have different attitudes to saying goodbye, and often they result in our not saying goodbye at all.  It seems easier.

What is a goodbye? Is it just acknowledging yet another loss ?

One way to not say goodbye is to leave early. We disconnect before we have to say goodbye so we’re not really there when we go, and don’t have to feel a thing.  We miss a lot that way, and people miss us.

Another way is to deny that we are saying goodbye–that is the proverbial “see you sometime.”  Yet when you have shared a very special experience with someone, even if you will see them afterwards in other contexts, you need to say goodbye to them in that setting and that community and that relationship, because it will never be the same again.

Skyros is like a magical world that emerges on the first day, builds up over time, and finally disappears, as if into the sea on the last day, never again to emerge in that form.  And yet it leaves behind friends, memories, learnings, and loads of other good things, not forgetting a suntan.  Like all the worlds we share with special people,  the world may disappear, but something  of it continues.

How do we acknowledge a goodbye, and yet also honour that which lives on?

I like to think of saying goodbye as beginning to build a bridge. We say goodbye to the form in which we have known that person, or had that experience, and then find a way to build a bridge to the future.

Forms are always limited. The person who has died is no longer with us in this dimension.   That form has come to an end. The person we have divorced is no longer connected to us as spouse.  But the love can continue, the gratitude can continue, the memories can continue, even the friendship and the conversation.

By building this bridge, we are able to carry something important about the experience forward. When Princess Diana died, the outpouring of grief was enormous.  But no real bridge was built to take the meaning of her life and work to people forward.  Hence it mostly remained just a time limited outpouring.

Perhaps her sons are the bridge.

So it is in Skyros. I suggest to people we start our goodbyes by telling people the good stuff that we appreciated about them as specifically as possible, so that they remember it. We may even write these in a ritual upon papers on their backs. These papers may go up on walls back home or get saved as special mementoes.  After my father died, I found in his drawer all the papers on the back he had received during his years of coming to Skyros.

We also, with respect and love, acknowledge the unresolved stuff that wouldn’t be good to take home with us. We may think it doesn’t matter, since we may never see them again, but unresolved business does matter because we carry it around with us.

Then we wish the person well, again as specifically as we can saying what we wish for them.

This goodbye is the first bridge to the future.

Then there are other bridges. We can take home our address lists to stay in touch with people with whom we’ve shared the experience that has changed us and so get encouragement to keep on track. We can create a writers group or an oekos group or any other form of meeting that has enough form to carry us into the future we have begun here.

And  perhaps even more important, we build a practice into our life, whether it is writing or meditation or dancing or ImageWork, that holds within it that essence we most want to take forward.

So we say goodbye to what was, and hello to what will be.  We allow ourselves to empty of the old form, and let the new flow in.

This bridge can sustain us and keep us whole.