Several people I love are grieving. No one has died; they’ve severed parts of themselves. Two have lost their well-earned public identities through job changes. One is losing a spouse due to an ugly separation, opening a trashcan stuffed with abandonment issues. Another lost once-visible body parts to cancer.
Grief from such losses can be surprising. We’ve come to learn that losing a loved one in death brings grieving, but from leaving a job? What if you quit or retire? There is still a loss of self. If you’ve been doing something for a very long time and get to know the people, the routine, that life and what the money brings then leaving or losing that life can be devastating.
When Sears sold off its parts in the mid-’90s, I was no longer needed. For the first time in 30 years, I wasn’t working. “They didn’t need me.” No longer my title, or in need of my corporate wardrobe or first class upgrades, or invited to great meals in major cities or to stay in wonderful hotels, I remember saying through a weak smile, “Guess the party’s over.” It turned out to be a good thing over time, getting real, but it wasn’t easy reinventing myself, finding my new normal.
We knew for months our company was going to be acquired, so I should have had time to prepare, right? But the grieving didn’t begin until I’d been home a few weeks. Catching up on sleep and cleaning closets stopped suddenly with the onset of a terrible cold. Depression set it and months later a girlfriend told me I was grieving. I was stunned. “Really? Grieving?”
Worse was the loss of life through divorce. True, the marriage was no longer a happy place for either of us but suddenly the life I lived and had come to enjoy was gone. It turned out to be a good thing over time, learning to thrive alone, but it wasn’t easy finding my new normal. Even worse was losing my parents.
Fortunately grieving can bring a useful depression. Reading the October issue of something I was reminded that depression causes us to withdraw from the day-to-day. If we’re able to do the hard work, dig deep, deal with real feelings to find a new normal, it’s a good place to be. I used to call it going into the tunnel. At first I hated it, but now I see the tunnel as a good place to go when I need it, especially since I’ve learned the light on the other side is definitely not a train.
Good grief helps us come to grips with a new normal.
If we’re diligent we’ll be even better after the struggle. More real. If you’re grieving now, ask yourself what part of your ego has been severed due to your loss.
In 2000, I lost my home, my husband and my mother, had a year-long cold and a horrible backache. We all go through these things. Having been there helps us know what loved ones are going through. We can’t make it easy for them – they have to do the work. But we can support them in the best way we know how.