It’s still early enough in the New Year to reflect on the year ahead and think about what you want in 2012.
If this still relatively new year has already brought changes for you, don’t forget to take time to also pay attention to whatever may have ended . If along with your “happiness” you also feel some sadness, take time for it. No feelings, especially the mysterious ones you may not be able to explain, should be suppressed or denied. All life changes are accompanied by many ancillary losses. And, somehow, our body registers them.
A former client of mine had reached the point in his career that he was making a considered move from being the beloved head of one organization to a position as senior partner in another. He was definitely feeling a loss. Even though the change was one he was choosing to make. I remember inviting him to write down all that was ending for him as he contemplated this particular move. I also suggested that it was time for a “good man to cry.” To his credit (male upbringing not withstanding), he did both. His next email to me was, “And what do I do with these 17 pages of losses which I have identified?”
He taught me that we can underestimate the number of losses that accompany changes, whether those changes are unexpected, or desired and planned for. Taking time to grieve, acknowledging the losses as losses, is the process that heals. Elizabeth Lesser writes in her book, Broken Open: “I am not a big fan of “closure.” It sounds so abrupt, so tidy, so final. I prefer old-fashioned words like mourning, lamentation and grief. They suggest a slow and sloppy process…” While not to be confused with clinical depression, this slow and sloppy process of grief that I am suggesting we take time for, includes feelings of depression.
After the death of her older husband and devoted soulmate, Elsa Weber decided to honor the import of his passing and take serious time to grieve. For a year. She did not put pressure on herself to jump back to doing ”something”, but rather to track her process of healing and learning about who she was and would become, without this special man at her side. She beautifully documents the downs and ups of her year of grief and discovery in her recent book, A Beautiful Mourning.
Serendipitously, at a recent business meeting, I sat at a table with a woman who headed up a local grief service. Rick’s Place provides support to grieving children and their families. While formal spousal bereavement groups abound, I had never heard of such a service dedicated to the needs of children, stricken by the loss of family members or friends. Referred by school counselors, the service provides space and processes for children to both acknowledge and to be acknowledged for the normal process of grieving. What a gift! They aren’t left alone to act out these very human feelings in dysfunctional ways.
Fourteen years ago, my own experience of losing health and mobility and an anticipated future as a tennis playing senior, taught me a great deal. Sadness and regret can surface and resurface at any time. I do my best to notice when it does. I welcome it as a signal that I am human. And I write about it when the spirit moves me. Other feelings typically emerge after one deeply surrenders to grief. Gratitude and celebration for what I do have often follow.
How are you managing the changes in your life? As you think about what you want, what might you have to give up? Any unanticipated losses in your life? In order to move forward in 2012, could it be that you need to take the time to identify and grieve some endings?