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The Ending Is Nigh

August 2, 2016

In the therapy world, professionals are very serious about endings. They talk in capital letters – ENDINGS. It can all get a little po faced and self indulgent but the intention is good. I guess the general theory is that for the vast majority of us, all the significant endings in our life are abrupt, often deeply unsatisfactory affairs. The aim of the therapy therefore is to work through those ending feelings to reach a point that don’t hamper the present or the future. Tall order. Within the therapy, the therapist will talk about “working towards an ending” but in the most part this is often idealistic, and the therapy ending usually mirrors the rest of life endings – abrupt and unsatisfactory.

This trend appears to be bucked on social media where the opposite often happens. I am often amused and baffled by what my friend called the other day, “The Facebook Farewell Flounce”. You must have come across it. There you are, getting on with your life within your social media group and all of a sudden, someone will do a post that knocks you sideways with self importance and seriousness. The big announcement  that they are leaving the social media group. The format is always the same: how they’ve wrestled with the decision for days, how upset they are that they’ve been forced to make this decision, a couple of veiled pops at unnamed people in the group and a declaration that the departure is permanent. The responses are inevitable. Lots of “Please don’t gos” and “what on earth has happened?” and character demolitions of the unnamed people, purely based on guesswork.

And then the person doesn’t go. Well, not immediately. They stick around to comment on the responses to their announcement. Eventually they will go. And then return in a couple of hours or a couple of weeks.

Do these people do this in real life? Suppose they decide to change their weekly shop from Tesco to Waitrose. Do they stand in the doorway at Tesco and broadcast their decision? And then wait by the seasonal dips aisle in case anyone is interested enough to respond. Or suppose you are a member of the Cowley rambling club. Do you stop your fellow members dead in their tracks on the towpath one day and announce that, after months of deliberation, you are quitting the club for the Harrow branch? And imply, without naming names that the treasurer is using club funds to purchase personal cupcakes?

I remember going back to my junior school, a few months after going to senior school. My junior school teacher was very popular. This was the end of the 1960s and he tended to favour floral shirts, skin tight hipsters and cravats. Rather like Charles Hawtrey in Carry On At Your Convenience. I found him on the stage with a group of pupils preparing for the Harvest Festival. “Hello Mark. Come and meet my new gang”. I’ve never recovered from the blow! Go. And don’t go back.

I can’t think of any ending in my life that would tick all the therapy boxes as a “good ending”. Even when I’ve had ample notice about leaving jobs, the end usually feels a bit flat. I might shed a few tears but not enough that should be warranted after 18 years service. All the deaths that I’ve experienced, I regret that I’ve never had those final conversations with my loved ones that are supposed to make the passing easier for all concerned. The words to my dad that I struggled for 35 years to find eluded me still in the final few weeks as he slipped away. My wife’s death was so sudden that I’m left with a lifetime of unspoken words and unanswered questions – from how much I loved her to “where the bloody hell did you put the keys to the shed?”

Social Care also sets up a bit of a false illusion about endings with it’s emphasis on “Transition”. I don’t think their idea of transition is based on any Buddhist tradition but they appear to suggest that an ending is the start of something else and “Transition” will produce that lovely smooth bridge as you cross from the ending to the beginning. It’s never been like that in my relationship with social care. In fact, quite the contrary – social care endings are often the abruptest of the lot. One day a new social work manager decided to end their contract with the support agency and our support was literally, here one minute and gone the next. The transition lasted as long as it took for valued workers to collect their P45. Personal Budgets suddenly stop or are dramatically reduced and you are not so much transitioned, more like hurtled into a no care abyss. Transition can’t really work because life isn’t like that. It pretends to be something that is beyond our personal experience. Unless of course, you’re a Facebook Farewell Flouncer, where your whole online life is spent in a state of transition from one place back to the same place.

Spike Milligan admitted that he often struggled with an ending to his sketches and to deal with that, he would just walk off.



From → Social Care

  1. Deb Evans permalink

    Thy just leave staff professionals people our kids Gt used to for years thy r all thy hav while thyre in units/hospitals.Friendships made wth some very strong yet suddenly
    Just gone out of their lives no good byes.Not a good way to teach relationships and endings.Makes Thm feel worthless and thyre vulnerable.Its all so sad as people walk in and out of their lives and no
    explanations or proper ways of keeping contact.Especially if thyve spent years wth Thm.

    • Deb, that is exactly it. All that’s important to a human is denied to our children who need familiar people much more – because of autism or other.
      Why do we have research for over 20 years that consistency, familiarity, and most important family who are experts are absolutely critical – when what is delivered is the exact opposite?
      You speak so clearly and simply, no jargon, just the truth.

  2. Jayne knight permalink

    There is so much more to endings. Endings are all about separation, anxiety and ultimately death. My persistent need to fill my time is certainly a real issue with gaps, silence, anxious attachment issues and deaths that should never have happened. I think what happens is that life gets into one zone and can become so much that zone that it’s impossible to end it in anyway. It absorbs and takes over your life because you want to change things so badly. And everyone stops seeing the wood for the trees and it becomes your own issue rather than the people you are trying to support. I question myself daily and I mean that, about am I doing this for me and my ego or someone else. Is my battle with authority or on behalf sincerely with others. I think we all need to question ourselves and get a good balance because it’s very simply to fall into a place where you start not to recognise where you started. I can’t imagine where you would be placed with the agony of parental separation and foul and vile deaths of your most loved ones or seeing the struggle. I try my best to empathise and do something. The justice and humanity in me makes that happen like many others. Xxx

  3. Judy permalink

    I thought the article was going to be about endings in Mental Health Services, where patients are expected to cope with a huge number of abrupt endings often without any warning at all.

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