The two sides of goodbye work

I was listening to the radio the other night and there was a man being interviewed who was speaking on various religious matters and he made the following statement


“If you can’t understand and accept grief, you can never understand and live life.”


An interesting comment that has implications for goodbye work. Goodbye work or grief work usually focusses on the saying goodbye process. In relation to the quote it is centrated on understanding and accepting grief. Perhaps this is only 50% of the goodbye work equation. That good bye work must also focus 50% understanding and living life.

A person who is suffering what is sometimes known as complicated bereavement may not only be finding it difficult to go through the grief process and saying goodbye to the loved one who is now deceased. Instead those who find it difficult to finally stop grieving for a loved one have discovered they can avoid understanding and living life by staying stuck and unresolved in the grief process. It provides a way out for them that is socially acceptable as engaging with the here and now in life is for some reason too daunting. it would fit with injunctions like Don’t get your needs met, Don’t be a child, Don’t feel and so forth.

Flower girl

The Goulding and Goulding model of goodbye work has this process.


1. The facts

2. Unfinished business

3. Resentments

4. Appreciations

5. Goodbye

6. Hello



Work through the unfinished business with resentments and appreciations. The Gouldings suggest the appreciations are done first but I usually find it better to do the resentments first. Then for the person to actually say good bye to the deceased. This can be quite powerful if done from the Child and not the Adult ego state. I have always been a bit surprised at how people can be so clear if they are ready to say good bye or not. Most people do know and can say so readily in many instances.

Then comes the hello to what’s after the goodbye. One could argue that this could be the part where one is meant to understand and live life. But it is usually only quite brief and given a minor part in the process. I would suggest the psychological process to understand and living life needs to go between the appreciations and the goodbye. The process of examining what that means for the individual and how do they do it. That they believe and feel like they live life and indeed do they actually know what that means. It seems logical and opportune to do this when one has been closely confronted with the death of a loved one.


In this stage of the grief process the loved one really is a side issue and one is just seizing the moment for some self examination. Even more so, really goodbye work has little to do with the deceased at all but is quite a narcissistic psychological process. The deceased is not effected or impacted at all as they are no longer with the living, instead it is all about the bereaved.

What still remains to be articulated is what does it actually mean to understand and accept life and how does one complete that process. Intuitively it seems right. To actively and openly engage with the world and others such that one has here and now contact can be quite over powering for some. To have no excuse holding self back from relationships and goals in life for many, maybe even most, may find difficult to maintain.

Grief is a way by which one could avoid doing that. It keeps one stuck in the past to someone who no longer even exists. It certainly is not conducive to going out and meeting others and living life. In essence it is being racketty. The person is choosing a to stay in a  grief racket. As the theory says when one is in a racket they have moved out of the Free Child and into their Adapted Child ego state.


To attempt to understand and live life would be to directly engage the Free Child again. Of course this ego state is necessary if one is to be in the here and now and in full contact in relationships. Full contact in relationships is something that many humans seek but at the same time can be frightening. It seems safe to say that the natural human condition is to have quite a strong ambivalence about emotional intimacy in relationship.


“I want emotional intimacy but it scares me”.


Hence one could argue, a key component of grief or goodbye work, is dealing with this natural ambivalence about intimacy with another.

This leaves us with the idea that grief resolution is just as much about going through the grief process as dealing with ones intimacy anxiety in relationships. Intuitively this seems a much more complete and robust model for dealing with the grieving client.

Indeed this duality of the grieving process may explain why the deceased are often spoken of and remembered in heightened affectionate terms. Once the person is dead it is safe to release the affection one has for them as they can no longer be hurtful. The intimacy for the other can be released as it is now safe.

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