Saturday, November 28, 2009

On “Lost” Relationships

Lost relationships can take various forms. There is of course the obvious loss of a significant relationship through death. There are other important relationships that are lost through geographic moves, separations, growing up, growing apart,and other work and life transitions. The loss could be a friend, a colleague, a neighbour, a family member, a partner or anyone with whom you may have enjoyed a strong positive relationship. That person may have been a strong support or source of encouragement for you. He or she likely believed in you and your potential and saw your capabilities and good qualities.

Some of the psychotherapeutic literature over the years on dealing with loss has emphasized the idea of “saying goodbye” or “letting go” of these lost relationships and moving on. This is the process of grief work and healing from loss. Michael White, an Australian therapist, questioned this notion and suggested an alternative idea. He suggested that people “say hello” to these lost relationships rather than saying good-bye.

How does this work? Saying hello rather than saying good-bye is a way of acknowledging the impact and importance of those significant but now lost relationships in our lives. While the physical relationships may be lost to us, they are very much alive inside of us. Our lives have changed and likely have been inextricably altered for the better because of the relationships that we have had with these people. These “lost” relationships are a resource that we have that we carry around inside of us. Furthermore, we can call on these relationships (say hello) whenever we feel the need to do so.

And there are indeed times in our lives that it will be helpful to call on these internalized relationships. We may be experiencing troubles in other relationships, or doubting ourselves or may even be facing uncertainty about what to do when we are grappling with a difficult decision. Calling upon the wisdom of this lost relationship may help us to see and respond to these situations quite differently. For example, what would s/he (the the person you have “lost”) advise you about this present dilemma or remind you about yourself that might be helpful in resolving this situation? Or, if you were seeing yourself through his or her eyes now (the eyes of the “lost” person), what would you be noticing about yourself that you could appreciate? Or, if you were to keep his or her experience of you (the “lost” person’s perspective of you) close to your heart in your day to day activities, what difference might it make to how you see yourself and approach your life generally?

There are of course many other possible questions or experiences that can help to evoke e and “say hello” to the power of these significant but lost relationships. So rather than saying good-bye to these relationships, you can actually strengthening the influence of the positive perspective of these relationships in your life. These relationships are no longer lost – they are now found and have become a part of who you are.

Warm regards,


Suggested Reading:
Michael White. “Saying Hullo Again: The Incorporation of the Lost Relationship in the Resolution of Grief” by Michael White in Selected Papers, 1988.

No comments:

Post a Comment