Beginnings and Endings by Catherine Conner
Beginnings and Endings
I recently participated in a discussion about birth and death. One of the outcomes of the conversation was to consider both beginnings and endings that occur at life events. When my daughter was born, I focused on the birth as the beginning of a new life and the mother-child relationship. The emotions I experienced were the ones I often experience at a beginning – excitement, trepidation, joy, and happiness. When my father died, I thought of his death as the end of my relationship with him and felt grief and sadness.
Yet a beginning is also an ending and an ending is a beginning. My child’s birth started my life as a mother but ended my life without parental responsibilities and the more carefree nature of that life. When my father died, it was the beginning of an inner relationship with who he was and who I am in relationship to that. I can now experience the sweetness of waking up from a dream in which he has appeared. I sometimes say to myself, “Dad would have enjoyed this” and it makes the experience more meaningful. I didn’t see these beginnings and endings clearly at the time of the transition, but now recognize they existed.
At times of crisis or transition, it’s sometimes hard to recognize both beginnings and endings. This can happen with our clients who are in conflict and we can be drawn into that limited view. Sometimes when I listen to a client who has decided to leave a particularly troubled marriage to a spouse that did not treat him or her well, it’s tempting to make judgments about the spouse and join in the client’s view that looking forward – the new beginning – is what is important. When I have a client that is struggling to understand how a conflict developed and the impact it has had on a relationship, I can get caught up in trying to sort out the past – the ending.
And even if I’m not drawn into the client’s perspective, it’s not always appropriate to point out the limited view. It’s not necessarily the right time to say “yes, your relationship is ending and that is very sad, but it’s also a beginning that you might find intriguing.” Or “this may seem very exciting to be starting fresh, but you may want to examine what has happened as this relationship is ending.” However, I believe that if I can be aware of beginnings and endings and hold that perspective in my consciousness, I will act in ways that will help the larger picture be available to my client when he or she is ready.