We are quick to look at what we have to gain in a transition. The new house or culture, a job in a different state, a longed-for relationship, the country or continent move for which you have planned and hoped, a child or multiple children. But hidden behind the things or people we long for is what we will have to give up to make space for the new thing. And the giving up is loss, the giving up hurts, the giving up is hard.
I don’t know about you, but for most of my life, I embraced an attitude of trying to look or the best, I thought it was positive or spiritual. I thought it was a good way to live; I thought it was God’s way. Most cultures I know and certainly Christian culture as well is deeply uncomfortable with loss and grief. Someone dies, and it’s, Well at least you will see them again in heaven. You lose your job, and the quick reply comes, There is something better.
Numbering my losses and accounting for them honors their significance in my life. In the months before we left Sweden, I cried almost every day. I sat with my best friend, and instead of talking about all the things I was looking forward to, I often said, I’m so sad that I won’t get to see you again and left it at that. It was incredibly empowering to cry and cry and cry when I felt sad, and I surrounded myself with people who were fine with a grieving woman, who didn’t try to “fix” the grief, and who accepted my emotions.
Crying, writing and giving words to my sadness was and is crucial to my grieving process. This probably looks different for you, but whatever it is that you have to do to grieve, please do it.
There doesn’t have to be a happy ending, we can sit in the messy middle of transition and just exist in it. There is no need to hurry the process along. The process itself is doing its work; it takes time to move forward thoughtfully and intentionally.
Every time I allowed myself to be sad and to speak about my losses, I honored those things as important and treasured in my life. Giving space for my losses to hurt also honors the source of these good things, I would like to think that every time I cried about leaving Sweden, it was a way of telling God, you gave me such a great gift in this place, Thank you.
Now it’s your turn: Is it hard for you to grieve? What can you do right now to grieve losses in the past or your current losses.
Resources: Steven Colbert’s interview in GQ is a fantastic insight into grief and loss. Give it a read.