The Value of Endings
Three years ago, Connie began a job with a start up company. If all went well, she would make a hefty salary and share in the profits. She was close to retirement age and this was going to be her last job leading into a secure retirement. She decided that the cross-country move and the reduction in salary was going to be worth it, in light of the expected future gains.
Two years in, the board of directors fired the original owner of the company, the person who hired her, and replaced him with a team that was going to lead the company to the finish line. The new leadership was more interested in personal gain than company gain. Connie realized that she no longer fit into the culture of this company and began looking for a new job. She was heart-broken, her dream was gone and there was not going to be the happy-ever-after she had expected.
Much of the horror of endings is the result of our expectations about what was supposed to be. When we fall short of the happy-ever-after goal we set, it feels like a tremendous failure, one from which we will never recover. The shock, shame and sorrow seem insurmountable.
Philip and Flora were married for ten years. During those years, each grew in some important and valuable ways. The problem came, when they realized that their growth had taken them down different paths in life. Paths that did not cross and could not be crossed in order to save their marriage. They continued to like one another and found that they were good friends and companions, but their values had changed in such a way, that they could no longer be partners in building a life together.
The shame Philip and Flora felt was overwhelming. They felt devalued as people and felt that the relationship they had was devalued. It was as if everything they had shared was no longer real. If the marriage ended, then it was never real in the first place.
We want to believe that that perfect job, relationship, personal project or interest is going to last forever. Fairy tales end with, “they lived happily ever after,” many marriage ceremonies include, “Until death do us part.” Success is measured in years of service, years together not in satisfaction, personal growth, completion of goals or purpose.
I would suggest that living happily-ever-after for some life situations, relationships and marriages includes an ending where the love, pride and accomplishments are transformed into different forms of being. They can be transformed into an ending where there is not failure and shame, but appreciation for the hard work that was done, the growth that happened and the gifts that were given.
Dick was offered a position on the board of an important charity. The organization accomplished many good things, it created change in the community and was an example for other organizations. About six months after accepting the position, he realized that he did not like charity work and he resigned. He was worried about what people would think of him and if they would call him a failure or think he did not care about the work. Regardless of what people thought, he knew he was not an asset. In this situation, success for him was realizing he needed to leave. He knew that his talents were better suited to other areas of life. By resigning
he made it possible for another person to join the board, someone who could accomplish more than he could.
Grief is the emotional response to loss. Any ending is a loss even if we are the one who wants it and creates it. It is easy to confuse grief with depression. If we can live into the void that is created by an ending, we have an opportunity for personal growth and the possibility of finding something new, interesting and satisfying.
This is done not by rushing into the next big event in your life but by reflection on where you are, what you are thinking and what you are feeling. Ask yourself, “Why?” As you reflect on what you are leaving or losing, it gives you time to
appreciate all you experienced and gained in this experience.
Every ending gives you the opportunity to take an inventory of your self and discover what you have to take forward in your life and what you need to let go of. With every ending there will be a beginning.