“Grief is a process, not a state.” – Anne Grant
Mourning a loss. It is something we have all experienced at some point in our lives. We have all lost loved ones due to illness or through the natural aging process. We have lost loved ones through the ending of a relationship. We have mourned the loss of a job, a house, or a pet. Some of us will even experience a period of mourning when our favorite sports team loses, a prized possession gets damaged or lost, or a favorite TV show gets cancelled. We mourn a wide array of things throughout the course of our lives…not the least of which is our old self and “the way things used to be”.
The progression of life is such that we go through cycles. Things change, people come and go, and we have new and different experiences. The very nature of life is change…leaving behind how things were for what lies ahead. Leaving the old behind and starting anew can be unnerving, stressful, and scary (among other things). But like it or not, we all experience it. Truth be told, we will likely experience it many times throughout our lives. And mourning our old selves is a natural part of that process. Honoring the way things were and who we were as a person is an important and necessary step in our growth and change. The danger, however, lies in getting stuck in that place of grief.
Memories play a huge role in causing us to mourn our old self. They bring back to life that which is no more…and we often feel sad about and/or grieve that loss repeatedly. When we replay those memories over and over in our minds we can easily get stuck in that place of grief and mourning. And unfortunately when we get stuck there it is not uncommon for us to begin to become angry, bitter, and maybe even start to play the role of the victim.
Rather than getting stuck there, I invite you to consider honoring the memories and then releasing them. There is incredible power in releasing those memories, and with them our grief. There is certainly a place for memories in our new life, we just have to be careful not to get stuff back in our old life through our memories.
A personal example I would share with you is this – after my divorce, whether I liked it or not, I was starting over in many aspects of my life. It was a chance to reinvent myself, try new things, meet new people, explore new activities, etc. But that also meant leaving behind the person I had been my entire adult life…the person I had become throughout the course of my marriage. That was scary, unnerving, and caused me plenty of anxiety at first. I kind of liked who I had been for all those years…I didn’t really want things to change…there was comfort and security in staying who I had been for all those years. But little bit by little bit I let go, I stepped out of my comfort zone, and I tried new things. In less than 2 years, I can tell you it was the best decision I ever made. Didn’t give up anything I loved, but I did clean up the stuff in my life that was no longer serving me. And so now I am enjoying life more than I ever have. And while I cherish my memories and the person I once was, I know that change, for me, was not only worth totally it but was also a necessary part of getting me to where I needed to go in order for me to live the life I have always dreamed of living.
Starting a new chapter of your life can be exciting, but not without first being extremely challenging and difficult. Acknowledge and embrace the myriad of emotions you feel when leaving your old life behind…but remember to keep your face toward the sun so you have every opportunity to shine brightly in your new future.
“Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.” – Rumi