Saying Goodbye


by Kathy Palokoff, goFirestarter

Last week I said goodbye to Kaia, my 14-year-old golden retriever who has been one of the true loves of my life. Kaia had a wonderful life and a peaceful death. That's what my mind keeps telling me.

What my heart is saying is something very different -- "What will I do without my best dog friend? Why do I have to say goodbye?"

As I grow older, I have come to understand that each piece of joy and each piece of sadness grows me as a human. And I know that the memories of those who have left are ever-lasting, cell-deep and beautiful.

Yet I rage against saying goodbye. It is not the rage of Dylan Thomas' "Do not go gentle into that good night. Old age should burn and rave at close of day." I can accept the inevitability of my own death. But the gut-wrenching burying of parents, a husband, friends and members of my pet family? Not so much.

So over the last few days I have been thinking a lot about what saying goodbye means to me. I have come to realize that while Kaia's death has been a trigger for reflection, saying goodbye has been a lifelong personal struggle -- not only about the big things but with the smaller stuff as well.

Too many times I do not say goodbye to relationships that reach their expiration date. Too many times I do not say goodbye to bad habits that do me harm. Too many times I do not say goodbye to work or volunteer situations that sap my time and creative energy. Too many times I do not say goodbye to material stuff that clutters my space.

I tend to love, work and play hard. I wear loyalty and persistence like medals won in battle. The result is that saying goodbye often feels like giving up. It has only been in the last decade that I am slowly beginning to understand that letting go is different than giving up. And that saying goodbye can actually be a blessing.

And as always, these reflections have also made me wonder about how saying goodbye impacts my professional passion -- marketing. Here are some initial thoughts:

The Liberating Power of Saying Goodbye. I am a marketer whose clients depend on me for insights, strategy and recommendations. I cannot bring my A-game to play if I do not say goodbye to assumptions about audiences, product benefits and competitors. In order to liberate ideas and tap into the creative spirit, I need to approach a problem as if I have never seen it before. Sure, experience and knowledge are important; they make us wiser. But they also create unnecessary limits and boundaries that restrict our imagination. We get stuck because we haven't said goodbye to old thinking.

The Emotional Power of Saying Goodbye. It surprises me how few advertisers tap into powerful "saying goodbye" life situations. These are such authentic moments that we all experience. When done well, they move us intensely. I need to think more about this power when creating strategies for my clients.

The Humorous Power of Saying Goodbye. I enjoy it when marketers take a sad life situation -- like a breakup -- and turn it around with humor. Laughter, after all, is the great healer.

A Final Thought. One thing about aging is that the frequency of saying goodbye increases dramatically. You say goodbye to the ability to remember where you put your keys. You say goodbye to some strength and flexibility. You say goodbye to what our society sees as physical beauty. You say goodbye to your family and friends. And then you say goodbye to life.

I believe that my lesson now is to learn how to say goodbye with grace and gratitude. To say goodbye the way my sweet Kaia did -- with love in her eyes and one last wag of her tail.

So I ask you to join me to remember Kaia who fulfilled her dog purpose-- to bring joy to herself and her human/animal buddies. Go get the ball, sweetheart!

Kathy Palokoff