by Brenda J. Thomas Ph.D

We all experience times in our lives when we have to end something.  Sometimes these experiences are pleasurable and at other times they are filled with anxiety and sadness.  How we think about these endings and how we approach what follows is what separates happy people from sad people.

I am reminded of my college days when life was fairly simple.  The biggest worry I had was trying to decide if I wanted early morning or late afternoon classes.  I enjoyed attending classes and socializing with my student peers.  Life was good.   Fast forward four years later and it was time to move on.  Now what?  Just the thought of having to leave the warm cocoon of the college campus and go out into the world brought chills to my spine and tears to my eyes.  I would have to leave what had become so familiar to me.  What am I going to do?  Should I go to work?  That would require looking for and securing a job!  Should I go to graduate school?  That would mean that I have to apply, get accepted and find the resources to finance an advanced degree?

I was terrified.  I couldn’t see any joy in beginning something new but I was forced to move on.  And the outcome wasn’t as bad as I had feared.  As a matter of fact it turned out to be so much better than I had expected and it positioned to meet new people, to experience new adventures and to grow and develop into a more rounded individual.  The new beginning put me on a path to a better life.

As I have journeyed through my life I have made many friends and acquaintances that have also struggled with endings.  The ending could have been manifested in the end of a marriage, the end of a job, the end of lives of loved ones, the end of life with children at home, the end of a business venture, the end of a relationship and on and on.  Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that all endings are not without pain or sorrow.  Some of them hurt like you wouldn’t believe.  However my point is, this ending does not have to be the final ending.  This experience provides us with insights that we can use as we move forward.
One of my dear friends who worked in a professional organization came into work one day and was told that she no longer had a job with that company.  She was devastated because she had received nothing but praise for outstanding work.  She never saw the layoff coming.  After much contemplation and soul searching she decided to start her own company.  Something she had always wanted to do but was afraid of the risk.  Another friend was traumatized when her only son left home for college.  She didn’t know what she would do with all the free time that she would now have.  She gave some thought to things that she had always wanted to do but never had the time to pursue and decided to become a high school teacher.  Both of these individuals took unexpected endings and developed for themselves a new