Grief. It’s there when someone dies, and that’s perhaps the first type we think of when we think of it. Funerals, flowers, and deep sorrow. But there are many other kinds. With every beginning and ending, there is grief. It’s not necessarily the crippling sort, but events that, over time, take a toll if we don’t stop and be with them to see what they have to offer us.
I present a not-at-all-exhaustive list of some of these less-obvious sources of grief:
- Childbirth or the arrival of a child. This happy, long-awaited event means the end of a couple who are just a two, the end of a relatively responsibility-free life, and the beginning of a whole new, unrecognizable journey. Whoa.
- Tying the knot. Just like when we add a child to the mix, marriage means the end of being an individual, a new definition of independence, and the new chapter of a book.
- Saying yes. This one is a baby step to the grief of marriage and often sneaks up on us. It’s often a moment we eagerly wait for and in the mere blink of a question and an excited “yes!” it all changes. By no means is this a negative event, but it’s definitely an end and a beginning all wrapped in one package.
- Milestones of growing up. Babies grow up, that’s basically their job. And we wouldn’t have it any other way, would we? At the same time, their development is fraught with endings. When they learn to walk, it’s the end of some peace of mind as we worry about them stuffing their little fingers into light sockets and falling down stairs. And there’s the end of breastfeeding, which marks new independence and freedom for Mom, but is also a bit of a sad ending. The granddaddy of these is graduation. We do everything for our kids and help them to get to this important step, but it also means the end of so many things, and a lot of scary new (grief-causing) things, too.
- Death of a family car. Cars, by definition, get us from Point A to Point B, but they are also vehicles of life. They carry us on adventures, they deliver us to important, life-changing events, and they are with us for many big moments. When they die, it can be like a family member is gone.
- Completion of a big project. If you’ve ever planned a wedding, you know all about this one. Months and months of preoccupation leads to a single day and…it’s over. There can be a sense of loss in the after of it all and sometimes some grief, too (see point #2!)
- Breaking a dish or an heirloom. This one snuck on me when I took salmon out of the oven for dinner. It was baking on my very favourite pan, the one I used at least twice each week, and as I set it on the table, it cracked. Not only was dinner ruined, but that dish, the one that had been with me for countless meals and more than 15 years, was gone. I was surprised at how much I grieved that dish and eventually, I had to replace it.
- Finishing a really impactful book or TV series. We may be a little more used to this in the age of Netflix and being able to binge entire series in a single week (day?), but it’s a thing to grieve this sort of ending, too. In the fall of 2002, I was working to give my then-mother-in-law the death that she was asking for as she lost her battle with cancer, and during my countless trips to Vancouver Island on the ferry, I brought with me Rohinton Mistry’s book, A Fine Balance and I still remember how lost I felt when I finished it. To this day, I think of Om and Prakash from the book and wonder where they ended up.
- A move to a new city. Yes, this is a shiny new beginning, but it’s also the end of familiarity, the end of a comfort zone and the end of feeling at home, at least for awhile.
- The ends of important relationships. It is my belief that we are in each other’s lives for a reason, and that sometimes, those reasons conclude. We finish our time with one another, and this can look like a divorce, an argument of some kind, or something very subtle, like the gradual growing apart of two glaciers on their track of growth.
And here is a bonus one: grief at world events.
Whoa, right? Whether we choose to engage and acknowledge it, or not, there is grief in watching the news and holding the events we hear about. It means that we are compassionate and caring humans.
Ok, great. So what do you do with all this?
Firstly (and only), be with it. Don’t turn away from it, just notice it’s there. Maybe say it out loud, to yourself or someone who loves you: “I feel some grief about this.” Let it show itself to you, and then let it go. Sometimes, all we need to do is notice an emotion in order to understand what it’s telling us, and then it will excuse its little self from our lives. I am giving you permission to love your baby but mourn your life before he/she came, mourn life as a single person, wish your kids could be young forever, miss your car, wonder for months about beloved characters in a book, or to miss your Gramma all over again when you break her antique teapot.
Life is gloriously laced with grief. It’s what shines light on our joy.
And by all means, let me know if I can support you, or bring it over to our community on Facebook.