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What to do when you still love someone

Why Goodbyes are Hard

If you really knew me, you’d know that where I grew up “salad” doesn’t mean “lettuce.” It means “mayonnaise.”

Yep, I’m a Minnesotan.

And just like my definition of salad means mayonnaise, I am also a master at the “Minnesotan Goodbye.”

You ever heard of this?

It goes something like this:

You’re sitting around the table with friends after a nice dinner and dessert. You’re ready to leave, but want to do so gracefully and politely.  

You: Well, this has been such a delicious meal. Thank you guys so much for putting it together.

The other Minnesotan (TOM, for short): You are so welcome. We just love having you here.

You: I think it’s about time for me to hit the road. There’s a lot of snow out there, and by the time I get home I may have three more feet to shovel.

TOM: Haha, that’s true, but won’t you just stay for a cup of coffee. We just picked up a fresh roast earlier today because we knew you were coming.

You: Oh that’s so thoughtful of you. You know, I love coffee.

TOM: Well, stay for a cup. Here it’ll just take a minute.

2 hours of conversation later.

You: That cup of coffee was just delicious. Mmm. You know how to pick a roast.

TOM: You betcha.

You: This was such a nice get-together you planned tonight.

TOM: Why, thank you.

You: You know, let me help you with the dishes. Really, it’s the least I could do.

1 hour later.

You: All right well, I better be heading out.

TOM: Oh we just love having you here - did we show you our new hot tub we just put in under the deck?

You: Hot tub?

TOM: Oh you’ve got to see this. Come this way, just real quick. Lemme show you.

You: I better take my shoes off before trudging through your home. One second.

37 minutes and 30 seconds later.

TOM: Yeah, we just love it. We’ve been hot tubbing most every night now.

You: Well, friends, it’s really been quite a time. Thanks so much for having me.

TOM: Bye now.

You: I’m so glad we did this.

TOM: Oh me too, let’s do it again soon. Hey, how about next week?

You: What’s next week?

TOM: Oh there’s this great roast on sale at the store and we can’t wait to try it, but it would be too much for us, why don’t you come on over?

You: Well, I’ll have to look at my calendar.

TOM: Ok, you do that. And let us know.

You: Ok, I will.

TOM: So good to see you.

You: You too. Bye now.

TOM: See you soon. Oh here, let me put my jacket on and come out with you. Those steps are slippery, so I better show you the way we walk to avoid the ice.

You: Oh, thank you.

Now standing in the cold, in the snow, next to your car.

You: Well, thanks again. It’s been so fun.

TOM: You bet, glad you could make it.

You: I will let you know about next week. That roast sounds delicious.

TOM: Yeah, please do that.

You, from your car window: Bye now.

TOM: See you soon! Oh, hey, did you see that note about the roads closing tonight for snow removal? Better take the back roads on your way home.

You (has it really gotten that late already?!): Ah, good call. I didn’t realize it had gotten so late.

TOM: Boy, it was fun having you tonight.

You: Thanks again.

TOM: Bye.

You: Bye.

UFF DAH.

(Now you know why that’s a Minnesotan saying, too.)

In Minnesota, we are masters at long, drawn out goodbyes.

So for a long time, when a good thing ended in my life, I applied my Minnesotan goodbye skills to making it linger as long as possible.

Most of the time, that  just increases the likelihood of making things awkward.

But that’s what makes goodbyes hard.

Especially the kind of goodbyes when it’s a good thing coming to an end.

It’s a good thing, why would you want it to end? Why would you want the person you love to die?

Many people’s natural reaction is to leave things exactly as your loved one left them.

Their clothes.

Their toothbrush.

Even the gunky, dried, toothpaste they spilled on the bathroom counter (because that was definitely not you).

Why must we say goodbye

But eventually, some day, you realize it is a hazard every time you come in the house and trip on their shoes.

Or that the bathroom really needs a cleaning, and what good is that gunky toothpaste doing on the counter anyway?

Whatever it is, there’s a moment when you slowly start to reorganize and things become this confusing blur of what you’re not doing for you because you’re trying to keep their memory alive and what you are doing because time rolls on.

While I will never tell you to clean up that gunky toothpaste, what I do know is that most of the time these kind of memory keeping tactics don’t really serve you in the long run.

By holding onto things exactly as they were at the moment of goodbye, your grief is fixated and stifled by a moment in the past that’s already happened.

And especially if your loved one died after a long fight with a chronic illness, often their last moments with you are not exactly the best ones.

Or at the least not the moments they’d want you to remember about them.

Because what they want you to remember is all the good times.

The things you did together.

The love you felt together.

Their best self.

That’s what anyone wants.

To be remembered for what was beautiful about your life.

In modules 4 and 5 of my masterclass How to Cope with Grief, I teach you how to remember in a way that honors your loved ones love and lets go of the baggage that’s holding you back so you can stop being defined by grief and start feeling supported in your healing process.

You learn what to do with your loved ones clothes and what legacy really means (hint: it’s about love) so you can stop feeling lonely and start feeling more connected to the people and places you love most.

You have so much potential and love left in you.

You’re beautiful and alive.

There is so much more here for you.

You don’t have to do this alone. 

Click here to get the replay of my online Grief Circle: You're not alone, where instead of letting grief be a divisive experience, I give three tips for taking your grief and turning it into an experience that brings you closer to the people and places you love. 

Until then,

Kirsten

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