Grieving Positive Changes
“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity… a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance… a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; NIV).
ADAPTING TO NEW SEASONS REQUIRES GRIEF
The harsh and hopeful reality is that life works in seasons. We do not remain in the exact same situation our entire lives – relationships change, jobs change, we change, and so on. We are constantly being asked to adapt to life’s changing circumstances. If we fight to adapt, we end up lost, discombobulated, and distraught. In the midst of adapting, we experience anxiety, confusion, insecurity, and grief. In order to accept life’s changes, we must grieve the lost season. What I mean by this is that we cannot move ‘forward’ or adjust until we have grieved what the previous season has offered us. Yes, this even applies to very positive life changes, such as, marriage, birth of a new child, retirement, and so on.
THE WHOLE GAMUT
We lose loved ones, our friendships grow apart, we lose jobs, we get married, we have children, and so on. The times we are moving from richness to richness require grieving. And obviously, as we transition from richness to poorer, grief is inevitable. This also means moving from poorer to richer involves grief. This may seem contradicting and confusing, but there are losses we experience as we move between seasons.
Let’s start with a few tangible examples. For instance, when one has gone from being single the first thirty years of life to married, there is a loss of independence that occurs. This loss of independence needs to be grieved in order to embrace the companionship the marriage offers. Within this, a change of identity and interests may also occur. Thus, the individual needs to also accept who they are becoming and the activities they partake in that also may come to define them. Another example occurs with adoption. If due to infertility, it requires one grieving the losses associated with being unable to have a child via natural means. This could also mean grieving lost dreams and expectations. In order for one to fully embrace the adopted child, they must go through the process of grieving what their hopes had been in order to rejoice and celebrate in what could be with their adopted child. Another example is when one goes from being married to divorced. This may bring a whole host of emotions, including relief, loneliness, sadness, joy, freedom, and so on. One will likely grieve the loss of companionship, no matter how dysfunctional it may have been. One will likely also experience identity changes, where they may have been more submissive and flexible, but become more rigid and independent. All changes leave room for grief in some form or fashion, and many have space for joy.
SO HOW DOES ONE ‘GRIEVE’ A LOST SEASON?
One may grieve these losses through a variety of forms, depending on what works best for the individual. Some individuals are verbal processors and need to share their experience with a friend over coffee. While other individuals are internal processors and need to journal about their experience and feelings. Yet others, are kinesthetic processors and need movement in order to process their emotions, either via running, walking, biking or some other active medium. Regardless, one needs permission to experience the full range of emotions attached to the loss of one season and movement into the next. This requires reflecting on both the benefits and drawbacks of what the previous season afforded, then looking at what the next season affords. This honest reflection requires humility, courage, and self-awareness. It is difficult to hold the dichotomous feelings of change, albeit happy and sad, as they appear to contradict one another. However, when one allows themselves the opportunity to experience the full range of their emotions attached to their season, liberation, rest, and peace follow. The process one goes through within and outside of a season is what truly gives life meaning and purpose. If we do not allow ourselves to be transformed through life’s seasons then we risk becoming stagnant, bitter, and lost. Being transformed requires openness, vulnerability, and flexibility. As we transition into each new season, we change as people. We are shaped by our response to life’s ever-changing circumstances.
INVITE OTHERS INTO YOUR PROCESS
Often times, in the midst of changing circumstances, we isolate ourselves from others or internalize our feelings because they feel messy or invalid. However, we are not meant to transition alone. Considering we experience life changes from birth until death, adversity in the midst of change is a universal experience. While each person’s response to such changes may vary, we can find common ground in understanding change as difficult and muddled. Even though you may struggle to articulate your feelings while in the midst of change, does not mean you cannot share and invite others into your experience. However, be selective about the people you choose to share the inmost spaces of your heart with. Identify those ‘safe’ people in your life, who accept you exactly as you are and validate your feelings. If you cannot locate ‘those’ people, then grow your support system by getting more involved in your local community and being more intentional about developing healthy relationships. Life is tough and we are not meant to walk this journey alone.
BEFUDDLEMENT & BEWILDERMENT ARE ACCEPTABLE
Thus, you have permission to be bewildered in the process of transition. Within this, you are never too befuddled for others to handle. You will be more incomprehensible and less effective in your life if you do not share with others. You will be a much more refined person if you allow others into your process and allow yourself to be changed in response to life’s circumstances, as opposed to fighting them. Therefore, freedom to be raw and real. Your process matters – regardless of how invalid and messy it may feel. Grief enables us to embrace the joys and hardships of life. Grief creates space in our hearts to love and live more fully. We cannot fully accept the richness of life without also accepting the hardships. You have permission to grieve both the good and bad of life. Allow space to grow. Give yourself permission to authentically experience your emotions, even if rejoicing feels inappropriate or grief feels invalid. Be you. You will be far freer by doing so.
Written by Hannah Chism
Feel free to reach out to me if you would like to discuss this topic further or to schedule a free consultation: [email protected] or (719) 204-1664.