Yes, Charlie Brown, there is good grief.

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 is good. Use it as a time to grow.

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.

Let your friends know you're grieving. Give them the chance to help you through the tunnel, or the pumpkin patch.

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.

8 responses to “Yes, Charlie Brown, there is good grief.

  1. Donna Baggett

    Hmmmm. The “rebirth canal” reminds me of “WOMB – The Voice of Labor.” Love you and miss you.


    • So nice to see your smiling comment! Last time we met we talked about getting together for a margarita. How about Jalapenoes sometime?

  2. Great! thanks for the share!

  3. Kristine

    Grief can be a kindly punch in the gut. I felt it recently with my move. Although I didn’t love Phoenix by any means, leaving that city for Chicago made me realize that I had grown comfortable with it and found some really rewarding relationships. Grief helped me to see the positive that had already been present.

    Oddly, I have experienced grief finding its way into my mind with good news too. When my brother told me that he was getting married and later when he told me that he was going to have a baby, I found myself grieving. Of course I was happy for him (and myself) in both occasions, but there was a fear that my relationship with him would change and there would be something lost. I was happy to be wrong about these.

    I think that you are right, grief can help you identify the great things that were had, and provide an opportunity to bring about a clear path for a new normal.


  4. Ok, this is one of your best. I connect to so many parts of this on many levels.

    You call it tunnel, I call it being reborn. There is such pain in awakening. There is such a struggle to find the courage to come up for air and come out on top….birth, if we could remember, was painful! I have been mentally reborn nearly as many moves as my military life has taken me…and none have been easy…..YET, ALL have been essential.

    Peace, love, joy 2 u…..and a blanket of blessings…..


    • jenk – thanks for you note and for being a reader. Being reborn, yes. The tunnel is also the rebirth canal. I think of Jodi Foster in “Contact.” “I’m okaaay to go. Aaammm, okaaay to gooooh …”
      A Sister Mary also told me it’s the liminal space, the doorway between rooms. Essential. Sounds like you’ve done good work. Thanks for sharing.
      WordScarab 🙂

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