COPING WITH COVID-19: The Importance of Saying Goodbye

Maggie Furniss shares methods to gain closure in a season of change
Maggie Furniss

As the Princeton Theological Seminary community concludes another academic year and transitions to the summer months, the COVID-19 crisis continues. To help the community navigate this new season, experienced counselors in the Seminary community are providing guidance on simple methods you can use to reduce anxiety and stress. We hope you find comfort and hope as you read about tips, techniques, and testimonies from members of our campus and alumni community.

This week’s reflection is offered by Maggie Furniss, counselor.

It's the end of the spring semester for all of us (and a rather anticlimactic one, at that). For some, including me, it's the end of our time at Princeton Seminary. I’m filled with excitement about the opportunities that await AND my heart aches — it’s taken me weeks to find a way to hold these together and it’s still uncomfortable. ​While we cannot gather to say goodbyes in person due to social distancing, it is still important to recognize these endings. Here are some suggestions to help you honor this season of your life.

News goodbye

Understand and face your fears. Standing on the edge of the unknown, especially in a time of great uncertainty, we may naturally cling to the old, to what we know, despite the truth that whispers deep inside of us: “The old me cannot come to where I am headed next.” It is sitting with that tension between the clinging and the letting go that will help you transition safely at a pace that feels right to you — don’t be afraid of it.

Create a ritual for saying goodbye. Your network of friends and colleagues will change for the summer, or for good. Despite the variety of readily available electronic modes of communication that promise to make the separations only as long as we allow them to be, I encourage you to acknowledge the transition with a goodbye ritual of your own to mark this passage and to remember and reinforce the bonds you have created. Expressing gratitude to those who impacted you in ways big and small during your time here is one way to do it.

Today I say goodbye to the community that has meant a great deal to me over the last six years. I’ve sat across from many of you, and together we asked difficult questions (and maybe found some answers), we laughed and cried, we were deeply moved, we were surprised by our ability to change, and humbled by the attachments we carry. What I take away from those moments is a certainty that we are one and the same — our humanity perfect in its imperfection — and that there is no privilege greater than placing one’s heart next to the heart of the other.

Take a lesson from nature. As you acknowledge your endings and take a step forward, allow the dragonfly to teach you. When the right moment comes, and only then, the dragonfly nymph that spent its whole life under water climbs up the reed and takes its very first breath in its mature form. It holds no grudges against its former self for not being able to fly – only gratitude for delivering it safely to this reed. And so in this season of transitions, pause and breathe, and then do it again. And again. With each breath, acknowledge the former you with appreciation and wonder; reflect on your struggles, remember the helpful ways to face them, and honor your growth. And most importantly, trust yourself and your own process of unfolding.

Maggie Furniss holds MA and EdS degrees in clinical mental health counseling from Rider University. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a National Certified Counselor, and a Board Certified Life Coach. Furniss has a background in fine arts and has training from the Gestalt Institute and the Psychodrama Institute and she incorporates expressive therapies techniques into counseling. Her approach focuses on exploring with clients how we are both creations and creators of our circumstances and how the collaborative process of therapy can be helpful in developing new and healthier thinking patterns and behaviors. Furniss enjoys working with students who are experiencing difficulties with life transitions, relationships, depression, anxiety, and co-dependency.

Educating faithful Christian leaders.

PhD Student

Isaac Kim, Class of 2015

“One of the biggest lessons I learned was how to be charitable to views other than my own. Christian charity was shown to me, not just in the readings for class, but from the professors, and the Seminary community.”