Here is my next reflection … (read Seasons Part 1 for background).
Endings Involve Grief
As Paul left Ephesus, not only were their final words and prayers, there were also tearful and painful good-byes, knowing they would never to see each other again. In the Message Bible, Eugene Peterson translates this moment this way:
“Then Paul went down on his knees, all of them kneeling with him, and prayed. And then a river of tears. Much clinging to Paul, not wanting to let him go. They knew they would never see him again — he had told them quite plainly. The pain cut deep. Then, bravely, they walked him down to the ship.”Acts 20:36 – 21:1.
We experience grief anytime there is a loss in our lives. Even good changes involve loss – leaving the past behind. Grief includes a range of emotions: sadness, disappointment, frustration, and even anger at times. Usually there is process that includes initial shock, eventual acceptance, then letting go, followed by reaching out to a different future. We need to take time to be grateful and to grieve our losses.
Nicole and I have had to grieve many losses over the years – of some hopes and dreams, of homes we loved, of positions held, of opportunities, of communities and teams we have been a part of, of family members who have passed on, and of friends. Letting go of what is comfortable and familiar is not easy. There have been tears and some painful moments. It’s been incredibly hard at times … but that is part of this journey called life.
Henry Cloud encourages ‘metabolising’ endings for our benefit. We ingest life experiences like we ingest food. Keep what is usable to you and eliminate what is not. Talk it out, cry if you have to, feel your emotions fully, express them, forgive, then let it all go … after you have given it adequate attention (not denial). Only then will you be ready for whatever is next.
In his excellent book, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, author William Bridges notes that it is often not the endings that do us in, it is the transitions. Transitions involve the emotion of change during the in-between times, like a trapeze artist hanging in the air! This can be exciting, yet frightening. In these liminal spaces, nothing is familiar or normal. [Some of you might be interested in a book Nicole recently contributed a chapter to called Neither Here Nor There: The Many Voices of Liminality.]
- What losses have you had to face? Name them and go gently with yourself. All losses need to be grieved appropriately.
- What has not changed for you? Identity the continuities.
- In non-Western countries, they often take weeks or even months to grieve the death of a family member loved one. What can we learn from this practice?
- Reflect on an ‘in-between time’ in your life where you found adjusting to change extremely difficult. What was most helpful during this time?
Read Part 5.