Leaving with Oprah

I am a 36-year old woman with “leaving issues” (read: abandonment trauma from a military childhood filled with too many goodbyes), and the “Farewell Season” of the Oprah Winfrey Show is kicking my butt. Yes, I’m serious (and if you don’t want to hear about it because you can’t relate, move along… click on something else, because I don’t need any attitude from you in the comments.)

Saying goodbye used to be a slip-out-in-the-night kind of thing for me, a survival technique from long ago.

Leaving hurt. So…I pretended it wasn’t happening. When I was in elementary school, I would pick fights with my friends before moving out of state, sometimes even out of the country, without telling anyone. It was a lonely road to travel – no going away celebrations, no letter exchanges with old friends, no history.

That failed attempt to save me from many painful goodbyes left what I like to call “a big black hole of emptiness” inside me. Then, without any concern for the little girl who refused to honor the leaving with ceremony, Change came for me. The endings of places, relationships, familiarity, comfort, and even puppy love… happened anyway. Then, something new replaced them. Change cares not for an unwilling heart.

Anyway, so don’t laugh… or at least brace yourself so you won’t fall down from the laughing – my leaving issues are totally being triggered by the end of the Oprah Winfrey Show. It’s been 25 years. Do the math. I grew up watching that show. I became a woman, and learned what in the hell it meant to be a woman, watching that show. I’ve been inspired, empowered, and educated by Oprah. And because I’ve gained and lost what feels like a thousand pounds with her and her viewers over the years, I straight up sobbed yesterday watching the episode celebrating people who’ve lost more than 100 pounds.

I wish I could say that this was the first time I’ve cried about it ending, but it’s not. I’m an emotional woman, and leaving of any kind breaks open all of those old wounds. I sometimes even cry when I graduate coaching clients (and graduations are supposed to be good things!). Again, the temptation is to turn away, to busy myself at 4:00 pm for an hour each day, to “pretend” not to notice that there are only 11 episodes left. I don’t want to feel sad. I don’t want to cry. I don’t want to say goodbye. And yet, there it is – this…leaving, again.

Last night, I was reminded about why I won’t turn away. I will stay and watch and yes, even cry all the way to the end, because leaving, when done well, can be every bit as beautiful and life-changing as anything that occurred leading up to the end. When my wife’s uncle died of cancer three and a half years ago, it changed me. I think it’s safe to say… it changed all who were blessed enough to be touched by the experience.

His cancer had already done the thing that cancer does – the illness, the fight, the treatments – and the time had come, both medically and personally, for him to focus on the business of what my life coach calls “living with dying.” If death can be done brilliantly, it was done so by this man. He went home under hospice care, and people came – children and grandchildren, siblings, friends, and neighbors – in almost painfully respectful droves to be with him, to laugh and cry, to love him…and, to be loved by him. It was perhaps the greatest goodbye ever.

I walked into that sacred space a complete stranger, literally just weeks into my relationship with his niece, and was welcomed like an old friend. I sat, in complete awe of the graceful beauty of his leaving. To be clear, it was not easy to watch him leave. For weeks it went on, and whether we were there or at home getting updates from family, it broke my heart wide open. It ached. I sobbed. Many moons have passed and still I cry when returning to that time in my mind, when I remember what it felt like to watch them all love one another so profoundly and then… let go.

The experience changed me. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I learned how to let go from him and those who loved him. It made me unafraid of the hurt that comes when someone or something you love must leave. So, I will stay here. I will watch the end of the era that inspired me to do the work that I do. If I thought for a moment that inciting a rebellion would score me a 26th season, I would at least consider it. But Oprah seems ready to leave, prepared to move on to What’s Next, and I’m going to honor us both by showing up for the rest of this heartbreakingly beautiful goodbye.

You get to keep so much more of the beauty if you’re not afraid of the pain.

Related Links:
How to Say Good-Bye When Someone You Love is Dying
Saying Good-Bye to My Dogs

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Linda Mills
Linda Mills4 years ago

oprah has more family than she'll ever know

Christy Farr
Christy Farr4 years ago

@Patricia G., I am unsure where that line is for everyone but for me it is here:

Fear is the thing that makes pain so awful. It's not the broken heart that's unbearable, but the fear that I might never love again. If I can let go of the fear and just grieve the broken heart, I will someday feel free to love again. It's not the extra weight that is unbearable, but the fear that I might never be "in control" of my health again. If I can let go of the fear and simple feel the sadness (or whatever the true emotion(s) are), then I will be free from them and able to move on.

For me, there has NEVER been a today pain that was so profound, so heavy, so life-restricting as as the original trauma. I have leaving pain from childhood. If I run, I revisit it and carry it over and over. If I just go there, leaning into this today experience which is allowing me to release old pain, and feel what there is bottled up inside of me, it always, always, always frees me from the pain... and being free from the pain, from the past, from that which is already behind us, is nothing to be afraid of.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this...

Patricia G.
Patricia G.4 years ago

How do we get to the point where we are not afraid of the pain?

Patricia G.
Patricia G.4 years ago

Sweet Christy... I totally relate to this. Much love and happiness to you. Be safe and happy.

Francesca A.
Francesca A.4 years ago

Quoting from your first lines: "and if you don’t want to hear about it because you can’t relate, move along… click on something else, because I don’t need any attitude from you in the comments" ...
This is a blog open to everyone and everyone should feel free to express their own opinion, with decency of course because I believed this is a community of mature people and writers. Now I am not sure anymore. I am sorry about your leaving issues but this is a little bit too infantile and in my opinion it spoiled the rest of your writing.

Christy Farr
Christy Farr4 years ago

Thank you, Anja... I did it and am waiting to see if the comment is "approved". Thank you for the suggestion. I would love for her to know how she touched my life.

Anja J.
Anja Jeurissen4 years ago

Dear Christy, I was so touched by your story. This was the idea that came to me after reading your story: why don't you send this article to Oprah herself? She would love to read it. (And maybe she will answere you back). Did you know that on her site there is an option for this? Go to: www.oprah.com and on her first (home) page when you scroll down a bit, there is the option: "Leave Oprah a message: what has Oprah and her show meant to you? Submit a farewell video or write a farewell message in this guest book. Send Oprah your best wishes." So Oprah would love to hear it. I think saying goodbye in a good way is important in life. It helps to let go with love. I will write Oprah a message, I loved her shows all these years, and I am going to miss her.
So it's just an idea. Wanted to tell you. Take care, greetings, Anja.

Gloria Morotti
Gloria Morotti4 years ago

This article helped me understand issues in my own life.

Christine E.
Christine E.4 years ago

Christy, as an armed services brat myself it was very interesting to read your article. It gave me an insight into my past and current behaviour and patterns.

Jessica J.
Jessica J.4 years ago

Yes, to be not afraid of the pain does leave more room to BE with the people, animals and situations that you love... My experiences with my companion animals dying have tought me that. When I stopped shielding myself from the pain the terrible loneliness ended too.