This past weekend our church put on our annual Christmas production. It’s a huge production with choir, orchestra and cast in a three act musical. John had a role this year. They’ve been rehearsing twice a week since September. Yesterday, they finished the whole thing in the fifth and final performance. When John came home from the all-cast party last night, I asked him how he felt now that it was all over.
“Finishing is bittersweet” he said. In some ways, it’s a relief to have time again, to have successfully accomplished what you set out to do, to no longer have the pressure of an upcoming deadline. But, as you’ve probably also experienced at some point in your life, when you come together with a group of people to accomplish a long-term project, you bond. When that season ends and you suddenly go back to normal life, it can feel like a major loss because you’re not regularly connected with that group of people anymore.
Good closure is something I’m always concerned about and while its connections to calls may be slim, I wanted to spend a little time on it today. I grew up in a community where people came and went constantly. Some missionaries came to teach at our school for a year, many came as resident assistants in the dorms for two years, and far fewer stayed for the long-term. This meant our classmates and friends were also often gone after one or two year stints. My sister and I were the only ones at our graduation who had started first grade at our school too. Getting closure with the friends who were leaving was essential. Without it, it was easy to feel like making friends and investing in others wasn’t a worth the pain when they left.
Closure was just as important in college. Our Resident Director made sure she imparted how to have good closure to her student leadership teams and the dorms each year. Here’s what she taught:
1. Debrief what you’ve learned or gotten out of the experience – whether it’s a project, a trip, a year of dorm life, or a play. It’s so important to take the time to pause and reflect on how the people in the group have affected you, how you’ve changed. Without this pause, we fly on to the next thing and don’t take the time to cement those memories in our brains.
2. Throw a party! This goes along with debriefing. You want to affirm how great and worthwhile this experience has been. Celebrate what you had and validate how meaningful it was for you. It helps ease you into the fact that it’s over now and let’s you go out with a bang. You can look back joyfully.
3. Acknowledge grief as a legitimate reaction. You are experiencing loss of community and, while it isn’t the end of the world, it’s still a loss. Sometimes, people feel like it’s stupid to feel so sad about something that’s so small in the general scope of life but you’re allowed to feel sad, to cry, to hug everyone multiple times and wish that things could have stayed the same a little longer.
4. Move on. We can’t keep it the same no matter how much we would like to. Know that you’ll have more experiences like this in the future. This won’t be the only time in your life that you’ll experience this kind of community. Don’t get frozen looking back at memories that will never return. Instead, anticipate the opportunities to build new community in the next season of life.