Shifting the Pain of Endings

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A friend of mine and I had a conversation awhile back about a friendship of his that ended badly. This was not a romantic relationship. Those very frequently end badly. It ended – as many do these days – in a flurry of hateful texts escalating with more and more venom fueled by the pain of rejection or hurt. He said it was really sad because it was actually a great friendship, but the way it ended colored the whole thing and made him wonder if it was that nice after all. I’ve often found, and it really sucks, that the way a relationship – or anything – ends can color the eternal view of it or prevent there being a transition into something more lasting.

If there is one thing that happens often in this life, it is that things change. And, when they change, there are necessary endings. Relationships end. Careers end. Jobs end. Financial success ends. Addiction ends. All of these endings can be good or bad or indifferent, but they all indicate a loss. That’s what “to end” means. Something has died. I know people who won’t date anymore because of the pain of endings and/or rejection. I’ve come to terms with the fact that ALL romantic relationships end. The rare exception would be the life-long marriage where both people die at the exact same time. In that one situation, no one has to feel the loss of the other person. All others end. They might end at the beginning. They might end amicably. They might end after many, many years and many life experiences. They might end very painfully. But, with each of those endings, there is a loss. There is the silence of communication that once existed. There is the void that person filled that is now glaring in your space.

With the acceptance that all relationships end at one time or another, I’ve become a little less panicky when one is ending. It doesn’t mean I don’t get hurt or mad. After all, anger is a separating emotion that protects me from pain and is a necessary stage in the grieving process. That’s what I think happens in all of those angry texts. In the olden days, we didn’t have the immediacy of flaming out at our perceived perpetrator in the midst of anger in our grieving process. Now, we can snatch that phone up and let them have it. My friend said it very poetically. He said he’d start feeling bad, and he didn’t think it was fair that she was going about her happy life without him, so he’d put it on her. Then she’d lash back. After awhile, he regretted the whole incident because now there was really no way to fix it. Too much had been said.

I get angry, and I’ve used text to hurt people, too, especially when I perceive that they are disposing of me. And, like my friend, my imagination tells me that they are going around being really happy that I’m out of their life. I can see them smiling, moving on, having this great life and thinking they are so thrilled that they got rid of this albatross around their neck … namely me. If I can catch myself before it gets too ugly, I now try to realize that this is an ending…. and endings are part of relationships. When I do that, I can be nicer, and I can even hold a parting conversation that may make both us feel better. I often find that they are in deep pain, too, even if they are the ones doing the dumping. It’s not always easy to have that conversation. But, it’s so much better to have it. And I have found that many amicable endings eventually reconcile into a different kind of friendship later. It’s a way of leaving a door open.

One of the ways I make endings better is to selectively choose healthier people in relationships. If a person’s life is full of cut-offs, bad endings of romantic relationships, or fiery friendships that blaze out in fury, then I know they are probably not healthy enough to have those hard conversations. The endings are hard conversations. They are also times when you have to tolerate painful emotions and stay present. Relationships are not the only things that end badly, but most endings do include people. I had a job that ended badly. When I left, I felt so relieved to get out of there because I was treated so badly when I gave my notice. It wasn’t a surprise. I had often been badgered to the point of tears in my boss’s office. It was one of the reasons I wanted to leave. On the day that I was leaving, I barely said good bye to anybody. I just wanted to get out of there. The ending colored everything about that job and that time period. And, actually the job was pretty sweet. But, I could never recommend that employer because of my experience.

I wish endings were easier. I wish they were as much fun as beginnings. Last night, I bought a t-shirt at my yoga studio that says Shift Happens. The fact is that every ending is a beginning. It is a shift to something new. It’s just so hard to wrap my arms around because the ending just takes up so much emotional energy. Nature abhors a void, and, when one is created, it will be filled with something new. When one special relationship ends, the needs that it filled will be filled from somewhere else. It may take a little while to get there, but love does seem to find a way. If I lose a job, I will find another one eventually. In fact, most people I know say they find better jobs after a layoff, and, in hindsight, they are glad it happened. One day I hope I love endings. I hope I can see them as “jumping off places” filled with hope and adventure. Until then, I’ll try to mitigate the damage to leave the door open for something else. Who knows? Sometimes an ending is not so much an ending as it is a gateway to something better if I don’t screw it up.

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