A simple word we utter to mark the end of something; after dinner with mates, before you hang up on a call with distant family, or uttered awkwardly as you click to exit the Zoom call.
But it’s not just a lexical bookend. It holds far more weight than that. According to Google, the definition of ‘Goodbye’ is: “Used to express good wishes when parting or at the end of a conversation”.
So every time we say goodbye, we’re actually accepting that a part of our life is over. Although in many instances it’s temporary, of course, making it far easier to do so.
But what if that part of your life was over permanently? Like the death of a loved one, or in my case — a loved one suffering with Dementia.
Someone once said to me that dementia is often called the long goodbye. Because unlike death’s sudden painful departure, dementia is prolonged — a constant goodbye.
So back to my question again, what’s so bloody good about a goodbye?
With most types of grief, you can apply the popular theory that there’s five stages — the final being acceptance. And when it comes to death, this usually comes with, or after the funeral. A physical marker of that part of theirs, and your life, being over. A chance to say goodbye and even celebrate.
But dementia is comparable to a prolonged funeral. You’re constantly saying goodbye to memories, parts of who they are, and the possibility of what could have been.
My beloved gran was sadly diagnosed with dementia a few years ago, and since then I’ve been trying to accept that this illness is a premature end to a part of my life.
Unlike the grief associated with death, grieving the loss of a loved one still alive is confusing.
What five stages of grief? There’s no way to navigate these stages when no two days are the same. From reminiscing about summer holidays spent in Istanbul one day, to being invisible and seeing her cry out for my late great-grandmother the next.
It’s pretty clear that saying goodbye is an important step in processing the end of anything. But what happens when you end up saying goodbye too much? Does it cease to be an oxymoron, or simply, do you unlock a new stage of grief? One where you’re wrestling with resentment and guilt, wishing for the goodbyes to stop.