The Pluto Effect
The sadness that comes with endings and how to deal.
Posted September 14, 2016
It happens to all of us, you blink and the summer or a great time is over and you’re left with that empty, sad feeling associated with endings, transitions and loss. It’s normal to feel that you can’t get enough of a good thing and it’s normal to want more of something great that’s ending and normal to feel frustrated and sad when it’s over. It’s the “let’s stay another day at an amazing place,” feeling sad when you leave family, or “let’s go for dessert somewhere else” after an incredible meal at a fabulous restaurant--the trying to stretch out a great thing and wanting more when you taste joy. We all realize that life can be pretty hard at times and so we try to maximize the good stuff. So what can you do to feel better when you know that something good is coming to an end?
When my son was nine years old, we went to Disney World. It was a magical trip resplendent with real life characters, colorful everything, parades, fireworks—a sensory overload of sorts. On the last day, as we were packing to return home, my son became understandably upset that we were leaving—asking why did the trip have to end and can’t we just stay some more. So we settled on a walk around the hotel with the intention of taking it all in for just one more time before we left and then, as fate would have it, we passed a kiosk selling Disney stuff and there sat Pluto, his favorite character. And predictably, Pluto came home with him and somehow became the object that reminded us that good things happen and end and then other good things happen like taking a Pluto home. I’ve called it the “Pluto effect” ever since.
There are ways to make good things last a bit and there are ways of better coping with the fact that nothing is forever and change is inevitable. Being mindful and present and really trying to find good stuff to look forward to can go a long way in lessening the let-down.. It’s helpful to be aware of the fact that inevitably after something fun ends, you’ll probably feel the let down so the preparation and conscious anticipation of that post-fun feeling can actually help. That’s what happened with Pluto-- Pluto was a conscious reminder that endings can be hard but with some attention, they might be more manageable.
If you’re aware of the fact that there’s a good chance that you might be affected by an ending or transition, consciously anticipating that it could happen might help. Some people take photos, keep scrapbooks or buy souvenirs like a Pluto—a transitional object of sorts. Things such as planning even before you head home to purposely frame a favorite photo to keep on your office desk, or planning a visit with a friend shortly after you get home to share vacation stories, or planning to start researching next year’s vacation on a set day after you get home just might make the ending a little easier. Paying attention to the little things while they’re actually happening and practicing gratitude make it easier to envision new and wonderful seasons and Plutos to look forward to. With a bit of conscious planning, it doesn’t have to be all that sad.