The transition from spring to summer is one of paradox – as most of us were products of a three-season school year, we are conditioned to anticipate the endings and the beginnings inherent in this seasonal juncture. For most of us, emotions are mixed as we feel sadness at certain endings, and excitement at possible new beginnings. Summer can bring with it both a feeling of freedom, and a fear around the lack of structure planned days and nights bring.
For bereaved individuals and families, this transitional time can be felt in fits and starts. While it is often a relief to put the academic calendar year behind us, the uncertainty of the future looms large on our horizon. More freedom may bring with it the fear of more time to miss our loved one, longer days may mean more time to feel bereft of their presence. And the sadness which accompanies the good-byes may seem incongruent with the sunshine, new growth, and smiling faces beaming at us from television, online and print ads.
For those of us who are grieving the loss of a loved one, as well as those who have not experienced this great loss, this transition offers an opportunity to become aware of the smaller losses in our lives, such as departing classmates and work colleagues, and to practice saying good-bye.
Ira Byock, MD, author of The Four Things That Matter Most: A Book About Living, tells us that there are four simple phrases: “Please forgive me,” “I forgive you,” “Thank you,” and “I love you,” which can carry enormous power to mend and nurture our relationships and inner lives, thereby facilitating the grief process, regardless of the reason for the loss of a relationship. I often add a fifth when working with bereaved clients, the simple act of saying “good-bye.”
Perhaps we can practice, and help our children to practice, this mindful leave-taking at this time of year, adjusting the five phrases to fit the situation. For example, one might say to a teacher or professor, “I’m sorry I was not always attentive in class,” “I forgive you for reprimanding me,” “Thank you for teaching me so much,” “I love/appreciate you,” and “Good-bye. I wish you well.”
And then, perhaps we can allow ourselves to experience the myriad of emotions that arise. To truly grieve whatever loss we may feel as we begin to incline ourselves towards the next part of our journey, and to hold each of them with kindness.
In this way, we can practice experiencing loss and accepting the feelings that accompany it. After all, change is in the air – and it is inevitable.