- Saying goodbye means separating from the people who comprise a significant part of your emotional identity.
- Temporary goodbyes are less sorrowful than longer goodbyes or the emotionally devastating end-of-life farewells.
- The more intense relationships become, the more devastating the emotional loss that is felt upon separation.
- The pain you feel at the end of the relationship is the true measure of the relationship.
Saying farewell to someone you love, even for a night, can be difficult, much less saying goodbye for a lifetime or forever in death. Juliet bid Romeo adieu for the evening with the refrain, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” Sweet sorrow is an oxymoron. The dictionary defines sorrow as “a feeling of deep distress caused by loss, disappointment, or other misfortune suffered by oneself or others.” Sweet is defined as “something pleasing in general or delightful.” This seeming contradiction does not make sense without the context of a specific relationship.
Relationships are based on feelings, emotions, and passion. Deep friendships and loving relationships are measured by the level of emotional attachment. Emotions intensify over time.
People spend time with the people they like. The more one person likes another person, the closer the relationship becomes. Each person in the relationship receives an emotional benefit from knowing the other person.
The sweet sorrow of goodbyes
Saying goodbye means separating from the people who comprise a significant part of your emotional identity. Separation, even a temporary absence, from the people you have a deep emotional connection with can cause sorrow because you will no longer be able to enjoy their company. Temporary goodbyes are less sorrowful than longer goodbyes or the emotionally devastating end of life farewells. Therefore, separation constitutes the sorrowful part of saying goodbye.
The sweet side of saying goodbye is the emotional fulfillment of being in a close relationship. The time spent together is emotionally rewarding, especially if that person is seen as a soulmate. Humans are communal beings. We seek the love and comfort of other people. Loneliness devastates the human condition and leads to sadness. Sad people will do anything they can to find fulfilling relationships. Likewise, people in good relationships are typically happy people. Happy people will do anything they can to maintain or enhance relationships. Herein lies the crux of the emotional conundrum.
Relationships are dynamic
They ebb and flow within the context of life circumstances and eventually end with separation by choice or by death. The more intense relationships become, the more devastating the emotional loss that is felt upon separation. The exhilaration of relationships cannot be truly measured without experiencing the overwhelming loss of a deep emotional connection. Intense happiness cannot be measured without knowing intense sadness. Happiness is meaningless without something against which to compare it.
Shakespeare was right. Parting is such sweet sorrow. But in the end, sweet sorrow is not an oxymoron. Separations are a normal part of all relationships. The richer and more intense relationships are, the greater the degree of loss that people feel when relationships end.
Relationships should be lived in the present. Enjoy the company of the person you are with as long as you can; knowing the pain you will feel at the end of the relationship is the true measure of the relationship. If it doesn’t hurt to say goodbye, perhaps it wasn’t worth saying hello.
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