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  • Writer's pictureAlexis Rosenbaum

Making Honorable Closure by Patrick O'Neill

Updated: Feb 15, 2021

This is an excerpt of an offering that Patrick O'Neill wrote about the process of letting go and creating honorable closure. He references Angeles Arrien, with whom he taught The Four-Fold Way for decades until her passing. I have used the Four Practices when completing relationships. However they can be applied to any situation:

Letting go is one of life’s more difficult lessons. A loved one’s death, the ending of an important relationship, a lost job, retirement from a beloved career, or a child leaving home to go to college initiates us into a new phase of life. These life transitions are demanding. To meet them, we must call on the inner resources of fortitude, trust and faith.

Transitions are “thin places” where the membrane between the mundane world and the divine touch each other. At the thin place, loss has a companion – new possibilities. It is important that we are equally present to what is passing and what is emerging. It is easy to miss what is emerging when we are overcome by loss.  With the loss of a teacher like Angeles we might be tempted to feel that a great void has entered our lives. Of course we will miss her but, perhaps, she has become even more available to us through her passing. The seeds she planted in us are somehow germinated through her transition. Who can predict what will grow as a result?

Grieving, of course, is natural.  It is harder to let go, however, if we collapse into our feelings rather than have our feelings. Collapse paralyzes us. We are unable to function. Experiencing our feelings is different. We may have periods of grief and sadness but we are able to find solace and, over time, continue to live a fulfilling life.

Transitions remind us we are not in control of life. As Angeles used to say, “There are two plans for every day. Our plan and the Mystery’s plan.”  Angeles had a deep and unshakeable faith in the Mystery right to the end. She was an exemplar in this regard.

Four Practices

One way of ritualizing a transition is to make honorable closure.  Ritual allows us to deal with loss in a constructive and meaningful way. “All societies have rituals to acknowledge the major life transitions of birth, initiation, marriage, and death,” Angeles observed. It is a conscious recognition of change.

The ritual of Honorable Closure has four practices. We can use these perennial wisdom protocols  – practices passed from generation to generation since the beginning of human history – to be good stewards of transition. This ensures we are being faithful to the great gift of life, and are taking nothing for granted.   

  1. Gratitude: Gratitude is the heart’s recognition of a gift.  It is a deep experience of value and meaning. Angeles reminds us the practice of gratitude keeps the heart open. She identifies the four portals of gratitude as blessings, lessons, mercies and protections.  Studies have shown when we track what we are grateful for we benefit physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Who and what are you most grateful for at this time? What ways can you express heart-felt gratitude to assist in honorable closure?

  2. Positive Impact: A positive impact is the indelible mark on our lives made by someone or something. We are transformed by the gift of a positive impact and when we reflect, we see how it has changed our lives for the better. Many of us have had the experience of being deeply touched when a person we admire and respect recognizes and acknowledges us. We feel healthy pride and grow to understand our worth. Experiences that are additive also change us for the better and we draw personal power from them. Who and what made a positive impact on you? How did you change for the better? How can we honor positive experiences through our behaviors?

  3. Challenge: Transitions can be challenging, even initiatory. But even the most difficult trials can be gifts. They make us stronger and better acquainted with who really are rather than who we think we are. Challenges are an agency of our growth and development. When we have success meeting a challenge – especially one that comes from some kind of transition or change – our confidence grows. We become more self-trusting, more empowered to face all that life brings. We are less prone to victim-mentality and more resilient. What challenges have we faced as a result of a life transition? What resources did we employ to meet these circumstances in a good way? How have we grown as a result?

  4. Reparation: Honorable closure is an important time to review impact. Have we caused injury to others or ourselves through fears or confusion? Will we be able to move on in our journey with a clean slate and no baggage? Will I have regrets if I leave important things unsaid or not done? What reparation would ensure I have taken responsibility for my impact and made corrections? Honorable closure requires good stewardship of relationships. Even when someone has passed away, we can still do rectification work for ourselves to restore peace of mind where we have been troubled.

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