Welcome to the start of 2023—and the end of good ol’ 2022. Or maybe not so good? However we may feel about it, it’s over and done.
Personally, I’ve always had trouble with endings, particularly when it comes to the dizzying experience of ending a relationship. A few times, I’ve been the one who got dumped, seemingly without warning, which felt akin to being ejected from a speeding jeep and abandoned by the side of the road. Other times, I’ve been the one who’s walked away, and it’s felt right. But most often, my habit is to dither in a purgatory of procrastination—wanting to split from a friend, a hairstylist, a romantic partner, or yes, even a therapist—and doing precisely nothing about it. After all, I don’t want to hurt anyone. And I don’t want anyone to be mad at me. Maybe if I just wait for the right moment to come up, or the right words, it wouldn’t feel so hard! Or maybe, if I just ride it out, it’ll end on its own. . . .
This issue of the magazine confronts the sticky challenges of endings—and the unexpected openings they may offer. The therapist who graces our cover, bestselling author Nedra Glover Tawwab, talks about embracing the discomfort that comes with freeing ourselves from unworkable relationships, and how we can arrange “gentle endings” rather than outright cutoffs. Therapy icon Irv Yalom documents the heart-wrenching experience of supporting his wife as she prepares for her death. Two other pieces look at the knotty process of therapy termination—one from the clinician’s perspective and the other from the client’s. Still another challenges the conventional story of divorce-as-calamity and offers an unconventional approach to helping decoupling partners move purposefully into the future. What connects these and other features is what seems to us a largely unaddressed question: since endings keep coming at us, how can we help clients—and ourselves—negotiate them as skillfully and lovingly as possible? And what beginnings may emerge if we slow down long enough to notice them?
Endings, in writing as well as in life, are hard. As Rich Simon, my beloved mentor and founding editor of this magazine, used to say when helping an author wrap up a piece, “Endings are the witch’s asshole.” To this day, I’m still not quite sure exactly what that means. A kind of tough-love commiseration? An exhortation to be brave? Or maybe just a simple acknowledgment of the challenges we all face in life, including the times we have to say goodbye. Whatever the case, our authors seem to get it when I use Rich’s line. They figure out a way to both tie things up and leave readers with something unanswered to chew on.
Maybe this issue will inspire us to do the same for our clients.
Editor in Chief
Livia Kent, MFA, is the editor in chief of Psychotherapy Networker. She worked for 10 years with Rich Simon as managing editor of Psychotherapy Networker, and taught writing at American University as well as for various programs around the country. As a bibliotherapist, she’s facilitated therapy groups in Washington, DC-area schools and in the DC prison system. In 2020, she was named one of Folio Magazine’s Top Women in Media “Change-Makers.” She’s the recipient of Roux Magazine‘s Editor’s Choice Award, The Ledge Magazine‘s National Fiction Award, and American University’s Myra Sklarew Award for Original Novel.