Normalizing Grief in Seasons of Desired Change


In our lives, change is ubiquitous. The change of seasons is one of the ways we connect to the natural rhythms of life: birth and loss. We are all on our own trip with the seasons of change in our lives and how we are engaging with them at any given moment.


I LOVE change! I also love continuity, tradition, ritual, belonging, and reliability. Duality lives in us and in our experiences. I was pondering this truth while missing my friends who now live 1,321 miles away (but who's counting). With change we desire, we experience feelings of joy, excitement, pride, and exhilaration. With change also comes loss, and so, very often, grief.


Here I am in my first year of living a life I dreamed of, feeling more joyful and fulfilled than I imagined. I am also frequently socked in the gut with waves of sorrow and longing for my sister-friend circle or as we are known: the Ya-Yas.


I miss being able to walk into my friend’s coffee shop on my way to work or on a random afternoon. The first thing I see is a line of customers out the door. It always takes my breath away with pride and admiration for her. Her shop feels to me that I am entering her dynamic art installation. It’s so infused with her essence. She always makes me an oat latte, orders me some fresh baked goodies or chia seed pudding from the kitchen. We cuddle into her little office or a corner table for a quick dish on the latest or a deep hash on a hurdle. Other times, we let out a cry that needs to be released before one or both of us can move on with life. There is a shorthand to it, the type that takes years to develop.


I am missing my friend who managed to like and love me through some of my darkest moments, and I with hers. She’s the first to liberate me from something with a simple “fuck that shit!” She can’t stand it when I don’t eat well and get so busy I live off protein bars. Once, when I wouldn't stop eating them, she made me a healthy alternative with her food processor. My fellow popcorn devourer, dog lover, and scrappy tomboy. She needs a decoder for all my BIG FEELINGS and remembers everything. She’s loyal and loving, fun, hilarious and adventurous. She's down for almost anything, but would prefer it happen in the wilderness, if at all possible. We have lived, worked and traversed what feels like a thousand lives together. I have relished in her dancing a night away many times, and I kept dancing too, just to be with her.


I could write a book about my admiration, delight and love for my friends and the community we’ve cultivated. But, this is a blog, so I will get to the point (maybe) even though I want to shine light on the magic of each one of them.


And, the point is: Seasons of change offer great joy, progress and hope–they also come with the biting pain of loss, expected and unexpected. We all go through it.


Over the years, I have worked with many clients seeking therapy in times of transition. Seeking support for traumatic, unexpected, or painful transitions seems obvious. Seeking support for pain in times of desired change, less obvious. Here are a few examples of the latter I have seen in my practice:


  • Moving in with a romantic partner

  • Getting married

  • Having children

  • Moving to a new community, state, country

  • Moving to a new home

  • Moving out on your own for the first time

  • Graduating

  • Taking a dream job

  • Starting your own business

  • Promotions

  • Retirement

  • From single to coupled

  • From coupled to single

  • Parenting a child that is growing into independence

  • Children leaving home to start adulting

  • Traveling

  • Cutting all your long hair off in the middle of global pandemic (yes, me, still recovering)


What’s unique about this particular type of grief is that people often feel blindsided and confused by it. Sometimes they are even ashamed by the feelings of loss. And, because our brains are heat-seeking missiles for resolutions to pain, we go hunting for the source and a cure. This process may cause people to assume something must be wrong if they are having pain. An unfortunate conclusion if it is incorrect and causes us to doubt the change we’ve made or the joy in it.


I am experiencing grief because I don't have easy, face to face access to my circle of beloved friends. This is normal and in no way negates the joy I am experiencing in embracing my new life and community. It’s natural and to be expected.


The joy felt after the birth of a child is often accompanied by a sense of loss of a more liberated life and sleep.


The thrill of earning a promotion or getting hired for your dream position may also come with sadness when you show up as the office newbie, after years of camaraderie and connection with colleagues you no longer see every day.


The excitement experienced when you commit and move in with an intimate partner, often co-exists with missing the space you once had to march to your own drum.


It’s all natural. Seasons change, they always do. Grief and loss ride alongside birth and joy. We are always in transition and living in duality, even if we are not in some of the big changes I mentioned above.


What if we were to befriend change, embrace it, in knowing the duality of it? What if we normalized that change is going to thrill us, help us, hurt us, and break our hearts, and that’s life?


If you are in a season of change and struggling, I hope you can find solace in the knowing a new season is on the horizon.


If you are feeling stuck, we offer EMDR therapy intensives to support you along your journey.


With love and solidarity,

Annie




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