Believe it or not, many things trigger a new episode of grief. We know death as the most obvious cause of grief, but we go through a grieving process of sorts for many other things as well.
As David and I get ready to move on to our next venture, I have already started to grieve a little. There are people, places, and even things I will miss about our current stage of life. I’m super excited about the next step, but I am not going to pretend that it doesn’t come with a modicum of sadness as well.
I think perhaps I have been through enough moves, job changes, and major life changes that I know the process and see it coming by now. It hasn’t always been this way, and now knowing that there are many pitfalls, I want to give you some ideas of those pitfalls and ways to address them when they come.
Missing people. Whether it’s a move, a job change, or graduation, there will be a shift that comes in your life where the people you once spent most of your time with are now people you barely, if ever, talk to. If you don’t know it’s coming, this can be excruciating. Even if you do know it’s coming, it will still hurt, but I think as you are more aware of the possibility of drastic relationship change you can better prepare yourself for it. Three subcategories of pitfall come with this.
Distancing yourself. If you know change is coming, the natural defense mechanism response is to back away from people, to invest less, to not let them in as much because our minds tell us it will hurt our hearts less if we back off now. Reality check. It’s going to hurt either way. Saying good bye is not an easy thing. I’ve had a lot of turnover in my life; I’ve been through three colleges; a couple internships; and several jobs, most of them involving high turn over of customers and employees. All of those things meant saying a lot of good byes. They don’t get easier. I’ve distanced myself and I’ve clung to people. Neither one makes it any easier. But being all in until the end, it makes a big difference. Leaving on a good note, with memories to sustain us, helps a lot, especially in the early days of the separation.
Clinging tightly. When we know we are going to have to say good bye, we can swing in extremes. Distancing ourselves is one extreme with the other being that we cling to the person/people for all we’re worth. We spend every possible moment with them to the neglect of important tasks and people. This is often in an endeavor to create as many happy memories as possible, but it can turn into a recipe for hurt, tension in the relationship, and even an early breaking away that could have been avoided if we just behaved as normally as possible.
Being surprised. There are admittedly times where a good bye comes suddenly. I remember one particularly poignant moment of this from many years ago where I had labored quite intensively over a particular client and over the weekend something transpired which forced me to close her case without ever having the chance to say good bye to her. But there can be times where a major life change is coming and we just don’t see the looming separations about to take place. We assume, for some reason, that everything will go smoothly and will be fine. Then the day of the change comes and we are blindsided by the people we just left behind. This is often due to the fact that we blindly run toward a goal without considering the human element along the way. And it can hurt them as much as it hurts us. We leave without having spent any quality time together and it comes across as uncaring.
Missing the work. Believe it or not, even the most stressful of jobs has its good moments. There may not be moments where we dance our way through work, but there are typically moments we can look back on and go, “I really enjoyed my job that day.” Or, “I really enjoyed this particular aspect of my job.” The farther away we are from the job, the more the bad memories tend to slip into obscurity and we are left only with good memories. It is okay to grieve the job, even if you are leaving it because you hated it and it caused high blood pressure. The change is going to be a shock to your system. And if it was high stress and you hated it, the shift into the new job can actually mean your body and mind swing in the opposite extreme. Your blood pressure was too high; now it might be too low. Be kind to yourself and accept that change, even for the best, is still disruptive to your system.
Missing the places. There is one view in particular that I know I will miss when we leave our current home. It’s a unique beauty only possible here and while I am very much in love with the scenery of our soon to be home, I know I will miss this one spot greatly. And you know what? That’s okay! Missing something here does not mean I don’t love things there. It isn’t a sign, at least not automatically, of discontentment. It’s an indication that we threw ourselves into the moment and lived it and loved it. We cherish and hold onto memories of specific places; they help ground us.
It is okay to grieve. Whether it’s people, places, things, jobs, whatever it is. That prickle in our hearts of pain at losing something is a reminder that we aren’t in heaven yet and also that we loved. Love is never wasted. It is valuable and important, and to grieve is to acknowledge that what we love is no longer available to us. To linger there is not good, but to not let ourselves have a moment is no better. When we prepare ourselves for change, we may start our grieving a little early while also keeping in mind that we are still present in our current situation. We should relish the moments we have and treasure them as memories to look back upon as life continues around us.