Portland in the fall, photo taken by julie l elder
I haven’t been around here much lately. I’m not sure why, I guess I’ve been struggling to get used to my new surroundings and stop being mad because I live in the beautiful city of Portland, Oregon instead of my familiar Bay Area of California. I don’t love change.
Sure, I can tell myself every single thing I would say to encourage another person who was going through this:
“Be present in your current space, soak it in, enjoy it!”
“Find things you love to do already and do them in this new town!”
“Make your new space your happy place, fill it with familiar things that bring you joy!”
I am hatefully, ridiculously cheerful at times.
It’s not a bad thing necessarily, to be positive, to look for the good. But sometimes I don’t want to make room for my negative thoughts and feelings, and I need to. We need to grieve what has changed, what we’ve left behind.
These can be places we’ve settled into so they feel like that favorite old sweatshirt that knows our body well. And it might be friendships that have changed and become less accessible because it’s now a 10 hour drive instead of 10 minutes. Or it could be relationships that we enjoy but know aren’t serving us (or them) well in the ways we need to grow. So many possibilities.
My oldest daughter recently moved to a bright and sunny house in the Bay Area and I can no longer hop in the car and go by. That’s loss.
My son, my youngest, is still in the Bay Area. We used to get together regularly to go see a movie and then have lunch and hang out. That’s a loss.
Yes, this is a beautiful place. I live with one of my daughters and her husband in a lovely house. Fall has been gorgeous, Finn the dog enjoys all our walks, and we can walk to shops and restaurants and there’s so much that is dog-friendly. So there is much good. There’s even a yarn/book shop close by (my dream store.)
But that doesn’t negate the “bad” or the sad or the missing of what was. Cue the grieving.
Here’s what HelpGuide.org has to say:
Grieving is a highly individual experience; there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. How you grieve depends on many factors, including your personality and coping style, your life experience, your faith, and how significant the loss was to you.
Inevitably, the grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually; it can’t be forced or hurried—and there is no “normal” timetable for grieving. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years. Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold.
“There’s no normal timetable…” This is great news for me. I have always felt things deeply. I laugh hard, love hard, cry hard, and grieve hard. It’s not my favorite thing about me, it’s painful to be so all in.
But I can offer myself patience. I can offer myself the time to let my healing unfold naturally without deciding I’ve failed by not being done yet.
The goal is always to reach acceptance at the end of grieving, to feel settled in our bones with the truth of the loss. With the truth of the change. With the actuality of the hard left turn.
I’ve reached acceptance of so many losses and changes in my life already: the loss of babies I was carrying, the siblings I grew up with, my longish marriage of 37 1/2 years. The acceptance of those did not come easily. None came without copious tears and poetry-writing.
I’m learning that there is no straight line in adjusting to change. That it has to happen more organically and less forced. That filling in dates on my calendar isn’t what heals me, it’s more about following the interests that present themselves along the way and gradually filling in my life. It’s growth. It includes some experimenting, some adventuring.
I know I’ll get there, even when it doesn’t feel like it. If you or someone you know is struggling with change and grief, listening is key. If you’re struggling, listen to yourself, listen to what newness you want to try on the road to acceptance. If someone you love is struggling, support them, love them, hear them. Throw out judgment and focus on nurturing growth.
Let’s be kind to ourselves.