And Suddenly It’s Over
June 8, 2023
BY KEN BARRINGER
Whether you are an athlete, performing artist, teacher, student, seasonal worker, (fill in the blank) you have committed yourself, your talents, energies, and daily schedule towards a goal. And suddenly it’s over; the season, the run of the play, the school year, the job. Even though there can be a long build up and we know when the season, play or school year ends, it can still feel sudden. So much effort has gone into the past 3, 6, 9, 12 months working toward a common and/or individual goal - and suddenly it’s over. As the old Seals and Crofts song goes, “We may never pass this way again”.
Whether we are involved in an activity by choice (athletics, performing arts) obligation (school)
necessity (work) or any other reason, we have investment in that activity. That investment be it positive, negative, full of growth or stagnating is part of us and impacts our life. They all end. The ending can bring so many emotions like celebratory joy, sadness, uncertainty and so forth. Sounds a little like grief. Because of the normative qualities outlined here – the school year always ends – there is great opportunity for grief to get disenfranchised.
The disenfranchisement can look like, “Aren’t you glad it’s over?”, or “Ok, on to the next thing”, or “You must be ready for a break”. All these things are true too, you might be glad it’s over, looking for the next thing or ready for a break. However, you can also feel a sense of bereavement. If there is any processing of grief it tends to be minimal and seen as a linear thing, “ok, you’re bummed out but aren’t you glad it’s over?” As a culture we are so prone to moving on rather than moving forward that disenfranchisement lies in its wake. It’s as if we are intolerant of sitting with an uncomfortable feeling – even for a moment.
One of the highest and most sophisticated forms of intelligence is being able to hold contradictory thoughts simultaneously. I can be glad the play is over because I’m ready for a break AND I can also be upset that the people I have been spending so much time with have all gone our separate ways.
People who have had sudden unexpected deaths or traumas often report they feel like the event occur 10 minutes ago or 10 years ago. If can feel so fresh and raw or feel like they have been carrying this for years. While events with more normative beginning and ending dates don’t carry this type of effect there are remnants that can make it feel this way. The transition from the end of a season, play run or school year can feel very swift as if it just happened or was so long ago.
Nevertheless, no changes or shifts in thinking occurs without awareness. If we can draw attention to our own experience of how we felt when things ended, perhaps we will recognize a range of feelings we had. Did they get acknowledged? What happened if they did not? How did it feel? I believe it was the theorist Carl Rogers who once said, “What is most personal is most general”. Perhaps our experience of endings may also have occurred in others. Acknowledgment is easy and validating. Let’s go with that.