Thursday, May 21, 2009

It's good to say goodbye

So, over the last eighteen months or so, I've met a lot of really incredible people. People who make me feel good when I'm with them. People who have taught me great lessons and who have allowed me to teach them. People who I want to "fast track" friendships because they're just so damn awesome.

But, just as these people come into my life, they also leave again. And though I am so thankful for the impact that these new friends have, I'm also so sad when they leave my life again that it's almost unbearable at points. And I know that I need to learn to appreciate these friends for whatever their role is in my life--think reason, season, or lifetime--and that not everyone will be a lifetime friend.

It makes me wonder, though...with all of the social networks--Facebook, Myspace, etc.--how will we ever learn to say goodbye to people? Ultimately, it's healthy for us to have to say goodbye. Because, eventually, we will all say goodbye for one last time to everyone we know. Sometimes we'll be lucky enough to know it, but most of the time we are blissfully unaware of the "last time" we say goodbye. Teenagers who have grown up in the Facebook culture never lose touch with anyone. They have thousands of "friends". They don't have that opportunity people my age and older have had to take a ten year break from their high school friends before showing up, new and improved, at a reunion. They lose that feeling of "I won't see these people ever again...but that's okay."

I'm concerned about how the future will grieve. Americans never have to give up anything, except to death. We all find a way around it. Lose your job? Collect unemployment. Lose your house? Move in with the parents. Move away from everyone you know? Facebook! Myspace! Email! Best friend alive one day and dead the next? Um...oh. Yeah, there's nothing to appease that. And all of the "little deaths" that we've managed to shut out of our lives--saying goodbye to friends, moving away from home, whatever it is--are necessary to living a healthy life. We need to learn to grieve on a small scale in order to adjust to how grief feels. In order to realize that grief hurts--loss hurts--and though there is no way to make it go away, the feelings will eventually change.

Several of my new friends who have faded back out of my life are my friends on Facebook. And my heart says "yay! They're still there! We're still connected! I didn't lose anything!" But my brain is sending out warning signals: learn to grieve. Remember that loss is a part of life. Appreciate what you have while you have it, and when it's gone understand that that space is now available for something new.

It's good to say goodbye. We will all have to--no matter how entitled we feel, that won't change.


Skye said...

"Americans never have to give up anything, except to death. We all find a way around it. Lose your job? Collect unemployment. Lose your house? Move in with the parents."

You don't think either of those transitions comes with grief? And what's the alternative? Lose your job and starve on the streets? Lose your house and live under a bridge?

For many of us, Facebook and email are not even close to being replacements for having friends or family move across the country and out of our day to day lives. We feel it deeply. I don't think teenagers are any different, I don't think they feel losses any less deeply just because they're not moving across the prairie in a covered wagon to never see their friends and family again.

Kelly said...

I apologize--no, I absolutely do not think that those types of transitions don't come with grief. I can see how you read that in my words--I don't think I articulated that portion very well. Particularly in the time we're in now, I don't want to come even close to implying that those are trivial things or that people don't go through a grief process...only that they are...recoverable losses? Either way, my meaning came across badly and I'm sorry that I offended you with that.

And, of course Facebook/etc. is not a replacement for day-to-day contact, nor do I think that people don't feel those losses. But, I think that people--young people in particular who have grown up in the 'internet age'--are losing their ability to cope with an irreplaceable, full, absolute LOSS. The 'lost' person hasn't moved across the country (covered wagon or not...I'm not THAT old), he/she is GONE. Irretrievable. Unless someone dies. And the further we get into a culture where we're not allowed to truly lose anything (which is not a comment on the person, or his or her ability to feel) the more difficult an undeniable loss will be.

Skye said...

I wouldn't say I was offended, more like baffled. And I would be interested to hear the evidence you have for this trend you say you're seeing, perhaps another post? Because simply the existence of these technologies doesn't seem sufficient to me as evidence of a cultural change.

Kelly said...

I didn't say I'm seeing a trend or a cultural change...just musing about what I think could be a potential side effect of social networking. The evidence I have is that, as proven by centuries of human behavior, when people don't practice a skill they lose that skill. And I teach seniors in high school who, for the most part, no longer spend a lot of time fretting about losing touch with people because, well, they don't.