The best kind of ‘goodbyes’ are the planned ones. We can discuss with someone a couple of visits before their discharge from the service about how they might be supported on discharge and we have already, by this stage, put into place all the available means of support through both formal and informal means.
As we say goodbye, a recovered well-supported person waves us out of the door with a heartfelt thank you.
That’s a decent goodbye.
It doesn’t always happen like that. Sometimes people are desperately worried about being discharged from the service and you leave with either spoken or unspoken hostility.
‘How could they leave me like this?’ ‘I can’t manage without them’ – but you do and they can.
Sometimes it is after a review in a residential placement and you might leave someone in the hands of others to provide the care. The nature of those goodbyes change depending on the restfulness and peace of the service user you leave behind.
A colleague of mine commented how sometimes you feel that you almost become a part of the lives of the people you work with, especially when you work with them for a few years, and then you flit out like a shadow and barely exchange more than a nod and a smile when you pass the street. If you pass in the street.
Sometimes you don’t get to say goodbye at all.
Sometimes death causes a one-sided goodbye.
Sometimes all you have to reconcile yourself is the missed call on your mobile from a service user who tried to contact you the day they died. And you didn’t answer. Not through ill-will or callousness but through the general pace of work undertaken.
I wonder if he was trying to say goodbye to me. I’ll never know but I’ll imagine he was.
That’s what we do as humans. We ascribe our own personal perceptions of feelings to other people. And sometimes to animals. We can imagine everyone thinks in the same way as us. It can help though.
You see, we do flit in and out of peoples’ lives. But they also flit in and out of ours. Some more than others of course.
Each has a lesson to teach, a life lived. Opportunities taken, grasped and lost.
Each life was filled with hopes, dreams and aspirations. Sometimes things worked out and sometimes they didn’t.
This is the importance of reflection at every stage of this work. It contextualises events, lifes, people. We extrapolate out the lessons learnt for the next time and the things we could have done differently. Like pick up the telephone calls as they come in.
Sometimes you get a sense of when a life is nearly completion but sometimes it hits like a bolt out of the blue.
Sometimes you just wish it could have ended with a goodbye.
That’s when you realise the luxury that there is, on both sides, in a well-managed and well-scheduled goodbye.
You value them all the more.