Today marks the last day at a job I have done for almost ten years. A job I had never expected to be called to do. And I was kinda good at it too. But now, with a new chapter beginning in my life, I finally gave in and closed that last door in order to walk through the new one. And this new path is a crazy exciting one – one that comes at the end of three years of grad school and countless hours of preparation. Another calling placed on me to stretch and grow in God’s design for me while healing others in the process. In the midst of all the excitement of starting a new business and having a fancy title with a bunch of letters after my name, I can’t help but feel this deep emotional pain welling up from within. Don’t be mistaken, I am excited for this new season, but with this comes a feeling that was not expected along the way: grief.
How often do we mistake grief as something unique to the loss of someone we care about? What sparks that grief though? When we really look at what grief is, it is loss. When someone dies, it is the loss of life, the loss of connection, the loss of a future with that person in it. Not to mention the loss of the myriad ‘little things’ that tie us to the person that is now, well, gone. We become ‘overcome with grief’ as we try to process what happened and how we will navigate this world now that our loved one simply doesn’t exist anymore. We understand the need for closure activities such as wakes and funerals and such. People deliver casseroles and things; understanding that there will be a period of grieving. That time where we begin to fully experience and understand the meaning of the loss.
So back to today. I am finishing one career to begin another. Except that throughout this career I have made lasting connections with the people I have worked beside for so long. A way of communicating that doesn’t even require words with my fellow classroom teacher (My friends who have experienced that, you know how amazing it is to have that level of communication with someone!). We also have a collective understanding of the ups and downs each of us have experienced over the years. Another important aspect is witnessing the growth of this place from the simplicity of four employees to more than I am willing to count! I have seen one of our own grow from my co-worker to my boss. I have also seen employees come and go for all kinds of reasons. On a personal level, I have met people I can call both friend and family. I have even seen marriage, divorce, new life through the birth of children, and have supported (and been a recipient of that same support) this family through death of a loved one. I have even had a whole team of people supporting me through a return to school that put me on this path of leaving my current job.
Sounds a whole lot like those things we grieve when we lose someone, doesn’t it? This brings me to my point. Grief and loss, although mainly attributed to the loss of life, is so much bigger than that. When I finished my workday, I was reluctant to leave; wanting to make sure I connect with as many people as I could before finally making my way back home. I was overcome with emotion as we put that official cap on the workday. We even had a final mealtime together as we celebrated the Christmas season with pizza and cake. I thought about all the things I will never get to do with these people again. The laughter, even the times of struggle! It was worth every ounce of myself that I gave (except maybe for the piece that includes me being late everyday). When we look at the process of leaving, it looks a whole lot like what happens when we lose someone.
Grief and loss are not exclusive to death. They apply to so many transitions in our life. Leaving an old job for a new one. Getting fired. Finishing school. Ending a marriage. Ending a friendship. Leaving the single life for a committed relationship. Losing a driver’s license. Changed life due to trauma. Losing the ability to work due to a global pandemic. A diagnosis. Forced isolation. Walking away from an addiction. Going to therapy. Turning 18, 30, 40, 50… Feelings of loss and grief can attach to any major change in our lives.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4NIV
Matthew 5:4 tells us that those in mourning will be comforted. Again, going back to associating grief only with death, we now begin to miss the point of this verse. This verse is telling us that it’s okay to take the time to recognize the change. To feel all of the feels associated with the loss. To be sad, even when the world says to be happy. When change happens, for any reason, it is important to acknowledge the loss of what was. For me today, it means reminiscing about my work family and feeling emotional pain at the sound of a song that was sung at the end of every work day for the last decade. For some it may mean the end of someone caring for you. Perhaps it’s the loss of social connection at the bar every weekend. The loss of youth. The loss of things we associated with freedom and independence.
One thing I know for certain is this: if The Bible talks about it, it is true. So, if I am mourning the loss of a work family, I can find comfort in grieving that loss. If you are struggling with addiction, you have permission to feel the feelings of loss from your changed lifestyle for you will be comforted. Walking away from the caring staff in the psychiatric wing of the hospital after an extended stay? Feel the emotional pain of returning to your home without the doctors and nurses. You. Will. Be. Comforted. Share your loss with others. You may not receive casseroles for every loss in your life, but God will respond and take care of you through the words of others. Or even a caring look from someone. You will be comforted.
Please. Take the time to acknowledge what was lost. Notice how you feel, and how you are changing with each transition. Yes, going from addiction to sobriety is worth a celebration, just as any other desired change. But it is also worth reflection about the change. Write about it. Talk to someone you trust. Call an old friend to share the change. Go to a counselling session or two. It is important to feel the feels and think the thoughts. These are perhaps the most important pieces of any of life’s transitions. Just as we have closure activities for death, we need closure activities for life’s other changes.
Feelings of grief and loss are important, God-given, feelings that serve a purpose. For me , I feel sadness and fear as this chapter closes. Some may feel anger, shock, anxiety, even happiness. When I talk to kids, we boil feelings down into happy, sad, angry, and scared. Happiness tells us to recognize the good parts. Sadness tells us to reflect. Anger tells us something needs to change. Scared tells us to pay attention. Although there are many other, more refined feelings associated with grief and loss, I urge you to lean into those feelings and hear what they have to say. This is essentially how we begin to be comforted. From there, we can lean on the people God has placed in our lives to help us get through the big feelings when we aren’t quite ready to face them.