Most days have their ups and downs, but there are some seasons that feel harder than others, even when there has been no major identifiable loss. Once we’ve ruled out lack of sleep, or the onset of a cold or flu it can be tempting to just carry on and hope we feel better soon. Lately, I’ve been trying to pay better attention to what might be happening at these times and acknowledge the seemingly little losses that might be needing attention. Once I can acknowledge a loss, I am better able to discern what I need in order to grieve and heal.
Here are some areas of grief that sometimes go unacknowledged:
A psychologist recently told me, that parenting is its own form of trauma. Something in that resonated for me. While all of my energies of the last decade and a half have been spent helping my kids grow into loving, secure, hard working and motivated adults, signs that they are moving towards adulthood produce a mixture of emotions in me. There are a million and one little fears and set backs on that journey, sometimes daily. All in all, this makes it difficult to really live in the moment and enjoy each stage of life.
When evidence surfaces that one stage of life has ended, it can feel like we missed something, that we didn’t get to enjoy it as fully as we should have. Or, we might feel that it was an amazing stage that we can now never go back to. If we can acknowledge this to ourselves, and accept that change is hard, but inevitable, we are more likely to find some hope going forward than if we ignore it.
Sometimes our kids trigger our own issues. When they reach a certain age, we might see parts of ourselves in them at that age, parts that we may have never fully embraced. Parts that we felt were not embraced by our own caregivers. Noticing that and attending to that are part of the grief work at these times which may be related to our own childhood experiences.
Sometimes situations come up with our kids that mean that some of what we had hoped for our relationship might never be. This can range from a diagnosis, to personality conflicts, to life decisions by us, or them, that lead us in different directions than we thought we would be going. Every change in life includes a loss, even if we are moving towards something that we are happy or excited about. Recognizing that not all is lost when there is an unexpected turn in the road, is important when grieving what is lost.
One thing that’s been a comfort to me lately is the reminder that my kids and I have a life time of relationship ahead of us. If I wan’t able to give them all they needed at a certain point in their life, I can still be here for this time and the next season.
For more on parenting, check out The 3 Parts of Parenting Teens
Changes in a friendship
Over time, people change. A friend you once shared history, worldview, interests and life experience with, might no longer share the same interest. One of you might move away so that you know longer share daily life, and/or one of you might have a change in your world view. Sometimes these changes are experienced simply as losses, and sometimes they result in conflict which might further separate you from your friend, or even end the friendship.
We don’t always acknowledge the losses in friendship, we tend to minimize them. “We grew apart,” “life moved on.” We form bonds and attachments to our friends, to varying degrees. Friends who’ve been there through intense periods of our lives or for large parts of our history may be people to whom we have very strong attachments to. Changes in their presence and place in our lives is a very real loss and worth taking the time to acknowledge and grieve.
Also check out 8 Reasons to Re-evaluate a Friendship
The social pressures to stay young forever, the message that you are not beautiful, worthy, desirable or deserving unless you are perpetually young, causes endless amounts of anxiety in human beings who age. Body changes are a big part of this, but so is the recognition that life is finite.
Irvin Yalom, an existential psychotherapist, talks about reducing our fear of death by ensuring that we are living in a way that matches our values. Living with integrity. When we acknowledge that we are aging, that our bodies are changing and our life here on earth is finite, we can pay better attention to making our time more meaningful. In this way, instead of loss, we are adding to life.
It is not always easy to embrace the signs of aging in our bodies, the maps that print themselves on our skin, showing where we’ve been. I have found it helpful, however, to remind myself that growing old is a privilege that not everyone is given. Gratefulness, helps with perspective.
For more on this, check out Overcoming Death Anxiety
Change in faith/beliefs
Sometimes it is a major event, such as a death, a betrayal, or a traumatic event, other times, certain beliefs and ideas stop making sense to us and we can no longer hold them as our own. This might be in a religious context or in the context of our daily life, where a belief we’d held that is challenged and then re-evaluated. Depending on how strongly we’ve held that belief or faith, and how much of our lives were influenced by it, the loss can be profound. It sometimes means losses and changes in our relationships, for example, the loss of a community, such as a church community, or group that you’ve belonged to that share that belief. It might mean changes in our level of friendship with some people or even conflict among friends or family.
Often, there is a sense of losing some of one’s foundation when something we’ve always relied on has shifted. This can be disorienting. If we can acknowledge the loss of certainty, in our lives, we will be better able to be with ourselves, to seek like minded people and continue our own journey towards integrity. I’ve personally found that this gets much easier as I age. I am better able to live with the fact that there are many things that I cannot ever know for sure and that this is okay.
For more on this, check out Religion, Spirituality & Mental Health
If you can acknowledge grief and loss instead of minimizing or judging yourself for feeling it, then you will be able to heal and carry on.
For more on losses, check out my previous post Acknowledging Everyday Griefs – Seasons, Social Change & Stages of Life
also check out, An Emotionally Conscious Resolution.
For more on grief and loss check out Grief Without Death