As Personal Development Coordinator Sammy, prepares to leave Opportunity Nottingham for a new role, she reflects on ending relationships and the impact this can have…
As I prepare to leave the project, I’ve started to end relationships with Beneficiaries (service users). This can be a very difficult process, and I’m establishing more and more each day just how challenging it is for Beneficiaries when professionals come in and out of their lives. So often the individual’s we work with may have personality issues and attachment issues, and as a consequence they may have difficulty with initiating, establishing and sustaining relationships. They may therefore feel abandoned and let down when a key member of their support team leaves.
To understand this more, it has helped me to consider how I have historically managed endings with others; leaving school, college, university and home. So for example, did I walk away? Did I cut all ties and move forward viewing my previous life as now being in the distant past? Or did I move forward in a planned way, keeping and maintaining close ties to those near to me? Obviously there may be many variations to this theme and of course people behave in different ways in such situations, but I think these questions are worth considering. I certainly thought about this greatly whilst with a Beneficiary who expressed various emotions when I disclosed I was leaving.
To help manage the process of ending relationships, it may also be useful to establish how Beneficiaries manage endings. For example, how did they leave home? Did they run away? Were they thrown out? Did they move out in a phased way maybe going to and from a partners flat, being unable to fully move forward? How have they managed endings in relationships with parents, guardians or ex-partners? Having this information can be a big indicator as to how they move on and indeed manage endings generally as they are very likely to repeat these behaviours. This knowledge could be very helpful when working with a Beneficiary, in order to manage the trauma of closing and ending relationships, and minimise any potential distress.
A word of caution though… if you don’t know a Beneficiary well, be aware that such conversations may open ‘old wounds’ and you need to approach this carefully. For Beneficiaries you have worked with for a long time, this might be a little easier, as you will have a more detailed understanding of their past.