This is a bittersweet month for me. My nearly 30-year-old “baby” is moving to the island of Oahu later this month; and while he’s been out of the nest many years, the realization that BOTH my sons will now be 5,000 miles away-along with my granddaughters-has me feeling a range of emotions and a bit of anxiety. I’m happy for my younger as he continues his work for Apple in an island paradise and being able to hang out with the family, but the reality of the inevitable changes of life are slapping me in the face.
Family is SO important to me. When my parents visited me in the years I was married, I’d lay my head on my pillow at night and breathe silent thanks for having all my most loved humans under the same roof: My husband, our sons, and my parents. Now, twenty some years later, three of them have passed, and both my sons will now be far from me. Add to this a few other losses in recent years, and the whole situation has lit a fire-no, make that a little blaze- under me. While I still work through some underlying grief, I am now dealing with anticipatory grief and working through some fears. It happens.
And certain actions I’ve been putting off are now screaming at me.
Oh, grief… we all deal with it in our lives and in so many ways. We lose parents, spouses, children (including those unborn), pets, homes, jobs, friends, our youth, our reproductive years… well, you get the idea. I know you can relate. You may be working through some grief right now.
A dear cousin lost her husband in a motorcycle accident many years ago, leaving her with four children under the age of 5, including one with special needs. In her 42 years of widowhood, she has spent numerous nights pacing the floor, particularly as she continues to care for her now 45-year old daughter. One particular verse of scripture has underscored her life all these many years, and it’s this: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”- Lamentations 3:22-23
Yes! Regardless of what’s happening in and around our lives, we need to cling to this declaration in faith. God is loving and compassionate and faithful. We will NOT be consumed by grief, worry, illness, anger, or anything else… unless we allow ourselves to become consumed.
So while my flawed human mind might ping me with a bunch of “what if’s,” projected loneliness, and yes, grief, I dig in and remind myself that God’s love for me is greater than anything or anyone. Anything or anyone.
That loss is a part of life.
Maybe you are entrenched in grief right now. Perhaps you’ve swept your grief process under the rug, thinking you are finished grieving or that the grief monster will just go away. Trust me: It won’t, and it will come back with a vengeance when you lift the rug. I know because I suppressed my own grief for a couple decades. I had to raise my boys and engage in life. It took an empty nest and a very hurtful move by my fiance to rip that Band-Aid off. I don’t want this to happen to you.
So what should we do?
Here are some gentle suggestions:
1. When you feel like crying, CRY. Tears are cleansing. A good gut-wrenching cry of about five minutes prior to bedtime will induce sweet slumber. Don’t hold it in. Just go with the flow, literally. At some point, your tears will taper, and then you can lean in to the occasional cry.
2. Be grateful for the memories. Yes, you miss your mom or dog or the home you left after 20 years, but what if you’d never had any of them in the first place? Think about that, and in between your crying sessions, reflect on the warm memories and blessings.
3. Start a journal of letters to your former friend, your deceased cat, or your departed daddy. You won’t actually send these letters, but boy, is this exercise healing! After I lost Chaz, my Dalmatian of 14 years, I wrote letters to him every single day in a journal. At first my letters were long. I poured out my sadness, but I also captured memories, like all of his pet (no pun intended) names (Chazzie Wazzie, Mr. Wickers, and names you really don’t want to know!). As the year passed, I found myself writing less and less, until nearly a year after his passing, I decided I was pretty much healed. I sat down and read my journal of letters, gave thanks, then placed it on a shelf in my closet. I highly encourage you to do this activity if you are dealing with grief.
4. Reach out to friends, and be transparent about your grief. Oh, the smiles we wear when we are hurting…Smiling can, indeed, help us feel better, and there is much to smile about in daily life, but it’s important to let people know when we are grieving. Don’t worry about what others think. Your real friends and loving family will understand. I’m telling all my good friends to “adopt” me in the coming months. My work can be very isolating-which has been a HUGE challenge-in this current phase of my life. I’m heeding my own advice in telling you to stay connected, re-connect, and form new connections.
5. Live in the present moment. I have a bracelet I wear all the time that reads, “Be Here Now.” It helped me embrace my three root canals this summer and reminds me to savor God’s creation on a daily basis. Yes, my entire little family will be in Hawaii in just over a month, but today is all I have, and on this day, my son is coming for dinner. Today is all you have, too. Live it fully.
6. Finally, embrace acceptance of change and loss. Honestly, while I would love being physically close to my Hawaii family, I also raised my sons with a spirit of adventure and independence. I am thrilled they both have this opportunity to live and work in paradise. I’m not moving there, because they will only be there a couple years. But I am getting ahead and projecting, and that’s not good! Look: Life involves change and loss. Period. And we have to accept it at some point.
Cry. Be grateful. Journal. Reach out. Live in the moment. Accept. These are important.
Changes and loss can be great catalysts for our pursuing many worthwhile endeavors. We may hurt, but if we are partners in our own healing, we can move forward with renewed purpose.
Amy Walton is a certified life coach who also holds certification in grief coaching. She has a heart for women and holds space for them to let down their masks and own their stories in their healing. Connect with her at http://www.amy-walton.com