Each year it is the same… I feel a sense of grief as summer wanes. Since I love the beauty of autumn with its vibrant colors and misty light it doesn’t really make much sense that I grieve for summer’s end. However, I know that I’m attached to “what was” and that I resist goodbyes. I also know that I can trace this attachment back to my own childhood stories of being left with yet another babysitter as my parents hurriedly climbed into their car to head to work. Under those circumstances, coping with the new usually involved intense feelings of wishing that I didn’t have to be where I was, that I could still be with the last caregiver, or better yet that I could still be enjoying the comfort of my own home.
Luckily, these situations taught me how to carefully read the terrain before me. They also taught me how to easily form bonds with new people. Many years later, those skills are still powerfully embedded in my psyche. But being adept at molding myself to the new and to the unknown doesn’t mean that I like doing so. At least not in the beginning. Initially, I spend much time combating my inner resistance to change, as though life were a static portrait hanging on a wall and not a still unfolding film which hasn’t yet reached the final scenes…
Although I tend not to dwell in regret, I do feel sadness when many of life’s stages come to an end. I realize that I’m being a bit hard on myself since many of us feel grief when relationships, child rearing, or youth come to an end. But I don’t want to reside in the negative feelings of resisting the mystery of “what is”. Thankfully, I recognize that when I feel grief at letting go it is essential for me to pause and to allow myself to spend time (even if only a few moments) to grieve the loss of “what was”. I see that doing this allows me to process and integrate my life’s experiences in a purposeful and meaningful way.
Because our culture is grief-avoidant, embracing conscious grieving in all areas of our life entails committing to a practice that we might have to engage in without support. Choosing to grieve the loss of “what was” before embarking on “what will be” allows us to stand powerfully in “what is”. Without integrating our life’s experiences, and especially the painful ones (large and small), we risk numbness, depression, and disconnection from ourselves and from our lives. By consciously grieving the past we can embrace and even celebrate what awaits us around the corner.