A space for endings

This is a time of year when endings arise in the lives of many people. So, I felt compelled to write about them, with the aim of raising awareness of the impact that endings can have, and the importance of acknowledging them. 

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For parents and carers of children in education, the end of the academic year and school holidays are approaching fast (or may have arrived already). Many children will be leaving teachers, classmates, schools, colleges and universities, resulting in the next step in their lives. This can bring up a lot of unsettled emotions and sadness. There can be a tendency to focus more on the new beginning, whilst neglecting the ending. But, it is important to allow space to process endings and the emotions that they bring up for each individual. 

Endings are as unique as the person experiencing them, based upon the circumstances and relationships they involve. They can bring relief, sadness, excitement, and worry about the unknown. Quite often they bring a mixture of all of the aforementioned and more! 

In therapy, endings are an important part of the process. It’s rare that an opportunity arises in life where we can work towards an ending and plan how that might be. A therapy client has space to reflect on how they feel about therapy ending and what their next steps will be. Similarly, parents can hold this space for children who are approaching endings in their lives by asking them how they feel about the ending/change, and allowing them to feel this without trying to fix it in any way or minimising it by telling them, “It’ll be ok.”

The intention behind processing endings is to allow space to feel and express feelings and thoughts about the ending. It’s to allow things to be, rather than trying to fix or set expectations of how things ‘should’ be. Understand that even an ending that you are relieved or grateful for may bring up some conflicting emotions that need space to be felt. 

For some people, facing endings can feel very difficult. They may skip their last session (in therapy), last lesson at school, or last day at work. If this is you, give yourself some space to understand this. Journalling may help you to do this, or you could explore it in therapy. Start by reflecting on past endings in your life and what they bought up for you both then and now. Reflect on what you are avoiding by not seeing things through to the end or saying goodbye. Notice if you have a tendency to numb, eat, drink, or avoid the feelings bought up by endings. This may be your way of trying to cope with the painful feelings.

It’s not easy to sit with the uncomfortable feelings that endings can bring up; practice self-compassion if you struggle with this. 

There are some endings in life that are not planned, and these are often very painful. Some examples include relationship break-ups, divorce, death, loss of health, miscarriage, losing your job, or having to move when you haven’t chosen to. These endings trigger the grieving process; this process helps you express your feelings and get used to the loss. Painful losses can’t be fixed or ‘moved on from’ - understanding this can help you to manage your expectations around grieving for loss. There are no ‘shoulds’, no set time frames, or neat linear healing stages to go through to arrive at a destination called ‘over it’ that doesn’t exist, anyway. Instead, there is getting used to it, life growing around your grief, and waves of grief that can still be triggered throughout your life.   


Grief is an ongoing part of life

When there have been traumatic and difficult endings in the past, working through a healthy ending in therapy (where it is acknowledged, planned for, and reflected upon) can be very cathartic. It may not change what happened in past endings, but it does give the client a chance to experience a positive ending, where they may feel more in control. 

There are many different scenarios in life that bring different types of endings, and the ways to work through and process them will vary for each individual. Here are some suggestions for things that you can try when working through an ending.

Rituals

Rituals involve doing something to acknowledge the ending. For example, the ritual of organising and going to the funeral is a big part of bereavement processing. In relation to leaving classes or schools, giving thank you cards or gifts and attending leaver’s assemblies and parties are healthy ways to acknowledge that time has ended.  

Gratitude 

Expressing gratitude for what was part of your life journey is an important part of endings. This might be verbally to the other person/people, or through giving thank you cards or gifts. You could also write in a gratitude journal about it. Even the most painful and unwanted of endings can eventually bring something to be grateful for, even if it is gratitude for the time and memories that you shared.

Talking 

Try talking about how you feel about the ending with a loved one, trusted friend, or therapist, allowing space to express your feelings and thoughts about the ending. Sob if you feel sad, scream if you feel angry, or express excitement, happiness or even relief. It may also involve talking to the other person/people involved in the ending and saying goodbye. Parents can talk about forthcoming endings at school with their children in the weeks leading up to the event. This helps them to prepare for what’s coming and gives them an opportunity to be involved with rituals and goodbyes.  

Journalling 

Expressing your thoughts and feelings by writing about them engages the left side of your brain, bringing objectivity which can result in a fresh perspective about the ending. Writing may also give you space to process any regrets, what-ifs, or things left unsaid. Through writing about them, you are processing them even if you didn’t get an opportunity to do so with the other person/people involved. 


Endings are common to all humans; we each go through both unexpected and planned endings in our lives. They can bring up a mixture of emotions - this is normal, we can (and often do!) feel more than one emotion towards something. Allow space to notice, feel, and reflect upon the feelings that the ending brings up for you. Grieve in the way you need to, for as long as you need to - free from expectations from yourself or others. Engaging in rituals, gratitude expression, journalling, and talking things through can help with ending processing. 

Working to understand the impact endings have on you can result in increased self-awareness. This means that when an ending is approaching, you can ensure you are giving yourself the space you need to express your feelings and ensure you are practising self-care to help you through the potentially difficult time. Even if the ending is unplanned and blindsides you, there will still be increased awareness and understanding of what you need to work through and grieve for the ending. 

Endings often result in new beginnings, these might be welcomed or dreaded. Staying in the present moment, rather than engaging with future-based thoughts, can help manage any stress and worry you might be experiencing about the new beginning. 

If you are struggling with an ending in your life, or feel that you have unprocessed pain from a past ending, and would like to work with me to explore this more, please email me to book a session.  

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Leigh-on-Sea SS9 & Leigh-On-Sea SS9
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Written by Katy Acton, BA (hons), MBACP Accred. Counsellor and Psychotherapist
Leigh-on-Sea SS9 & Leigh-On-Sea SS9

Katy Acton (BA Hons, MBACP) is an Integrative Counsellor and Psychotherapist with a private practice in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, also online and by telephone.

Katy has been supporting clients for over 12 years and is particularly experienced in working with bereavement, stress, worry, anxiety, relationships.

Katy has also published 3 journals.

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