A friend of my sister’s once told her you must grieve everything. Anytime you have to say goodbye to something, someone or some place, grieve it. When you’re in a transitional phase in life, like say, your twenties and maybe your thirties too, this can mean a lot of goodbyes. To things like: college, your first job, your apartment, your hometown, another town, another job and before after and in between, relationships. Lots of relationships in all forms. People are in and out of your life before you can blink and get their phone number.
So when you find something in your transitional life transitioning yet again, you have two choices: avoid saying goodbye, or face the goodbye. For a long time, I was an avoider but didn’t realize it. For example, if I broke up with someone, I hurled myself into a new hobby. I trained for a marathon or joined a volleyball team. One time when I moved away from one of my favorite cities in the world, I immersed myself in my new job and tried to ignore the big, city-shaped hole in my heart. I’ve avoided literally saying goodbye, too. To one of my best friends in that city, I rushed through a quick goodbye conversation on a busy sidewalk in the freezing cold. He handed me a parting gift and I took it and said thanks and hurried away.
It’s like the fight or flight reflex, and I always flew. But this is harmful to yourself and others. What running away from goodbye does is prevent you from grieving. What grieving does is allow you to move on. If you don’t acknowledge that person, place or thing is gone, you live in a suspended denial and have a harder time being without person/place/thing than if you had just acknowledged the goodbye in the first place. What you are running away from ends up following you for a long time. How can something really be gone if you’ve never admitted it is?
On the other hand, if you address the goodbye, you open the door to the grieving process. It feels harder at first but in hindsight you will see you are a healthier person. You won’t be shoving sadness so deep down that it eventually bubbles to the surface at weird and inopportune times. Trust me, you want to avoid those bubbling emotions.
So how do you do this grieving thing when it’s not actual death we’re talking about? I guess it’s different for everyone. For me, that time I joined a volleyball team I had a couple of friends call me out and tell me I needed to sit in my sadness for at least a few weeks because I was the type that ran from sadness. So I had their accountability and I told them I would allow myself to cry when I needed to and I would journal and I would make sure I was conscious of my grieving a couple of nights a week. This really sucked and those journal pages are dark and never to be shared with anyone, but after those few weeks, I noticed the weight of being sad had begun to lift and I began to see the journal pages reflect hope again. And after a little longer, I even felt joy creep in in an unexpected way.
I think that’s the best part about grieving. It makes a crack, and joy seeps in.