I am starting to think as a culture and a country we are suffering from complicated grief. We don’t seem to get over things anymore much as someone who has been hit time after time by life gets to a place where stuck-ness and sadness and rage become a constant state of existence.
We lack rituals for transitions unless you count sports events and I don’t. We don’t acknowledge that our children going from our laps to their peers hurts. The little girl who you used to take with you everywhere becomes a teen who hates you. It’s temporary but the little girl is gone and you must find something to love in this new creature giving you the finger. Saying goodbye to the younger child can be critical to forming a new relationship with a teen and then an adult and then a newlywed, etc.
Much time when I was still a therapist was spent helping parents acknowledge the sadness underneath their anger. Acknowledging that the 8 year child is gone and missed and this 14 year old isn’t much fun usually shifted everything to more solutions and less complaining. Rituals of saying goodbye and mourning the change helped immensely.
I saw and still see the same things with people in their 50s approaching retirement. Mostly women come to therapy so that’s what I’m more familiar with but it’s hard for women to say goodbye to careers. Especially if that career has been long term.
The career has been there like an anchor through divorce, remarriage, children growing up, leaving and parents dying. Your career was a lifeline through many storms and changes so when you see the end of the road approaching the fight to hang on can be extremely difficult if you don’t acknowledge it and say goodbye even if only in your mind. If you don’t effectively say goodbye your transition into retirement can be pretty ugly. These are the people that retire and die a year later in my opinion. We must have something to move toward when we are leaving something behind.
It’s hard for some people to see the younger generation sweeping and making changes to all that you worked so hard to establish and they certainly don’t want to hear your war stories or why you created what you did. It can blind you to the fact that sometimes old structures need to be knocked down and bit of chaos tossed around to create something totally new.
If you’re approaching any kind of transition say goodbye to what is leaving while you are welcoming what is coming in. It’s ok to be sad at losing anything: a friendship, a lover, a cherished pet, a child to a teen, a spouse and a career. Hell it’s ok to be sad when trading your old car in for a new one and who hasn’t felt that little twinge?
Ritual. Use something to mark the end of a time. Write and burn letters. Plant a tree or dig up one that’s died. Hike a mountain and at the top shout into the wind what you are letting go. Just do something besides eat it, drink it or zone the pain away in front of a screen or worse let it turn into the kind of rage that burns you and everything you touch, away.