grief: coping with endings and transitions

We are moving from Worthing to south east London in a month’s time and this week involves a lot of endings. I find myself feeling exhausted, easily upset and just unable to get a handle of my thoughts and feelings. It is all exacerbated by the fact that I have to help my kids deal with their endings and manage the emotional fallout.

Something we had to reflect on during my counselling course was how we feel about endings. For one exercise we had to choose a “good” ending and consider why it was positive. I chose leaving work to go on maternity leave with my first child. I was ready to finish for a start as I was carrying what would turn out to be a 10-pounder (yep, it’s no surprise that sneezing whilst walking when I have a full bladder doesn’t go well these days).  I was also well prepared for the ending; I had about seven months warning. Thirdly, I was excited about the next step. It was a step I had chosen and I couldn’t wait to crack on with motherhood and all it involved.

However, as I reflected on this I realised something…

It wasn’t really an ending.

Even though I had a fairly good idea I wouldn’t go back to the same role and would have another child fairly soon after the first. The organisation was run by my Dad and I knew I’d always have connections to it and would probably work for them again at some point in some capacity. I was right.

It led me to question, do I actually only deal well with endings that aren’t really endings?

How has experiencing a major bereavement at the age of 20 and then another at 29 impacted the way I view endings? I came up with a few things:

i expect endings to be bad

I can’t really help it. Well, I can but it’s taking some CBT effort and perseverance. I am trying to notice the negative thoughts and counter them with positive ones. I am also attempting to focus on today and be mindful about the present moment.

I very much need to be kind to myself and this is where I can often get in turmoil. My incredibly noisy self-critic tells me I can’t cope, won’t cope, but should cope. My thoughts tell me that it’s inevitable that I won’t manage and that in itself equals failure.

This morning, I had an awful dream in which three people died and in the dream I was feeling waves of stomach-clenching pain. I woke up completely immersed in those feelings. It was horrible. My subconscious associates any goodbye with the worst kind of goodbye I have experienced and therefore, self-compassion is due (but rarely given, in all honesty).

endings = anxiety

It’s very hard to control the sense of panic that seemingly comes out of nowhere when approaching a major change or transition. You may have felt that the day before your driving test, or appraisal, or exam. Perhaps not though over moving house.

The anxiety feeds itself because as I feel anxious I then feel less able to cope and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

i feel the impact of other endings

During the past week I have felt similar to how I felt in the throes of grieving for my Dad. Fragile, tearful, lonely. At the time of this transition I wish he were here to support and also encourage me in the unique, Dad-way that he did. I wish he could help us with decisions. I wish he simply knew.

As I start to grieve over leaving the life we have here I am experiencing a fresh wave of grief for my Dad, which leaves me feeling as though this ending is going to be worse than it really is.

I was in this state at the beginning of the week and anticipating saying goodbye to the toddler group I have been attending for five and a half years, yesterday. Yet it wasn’t all that bad. I didn’t shed a tear. That could sound like I don’t care, which isn’t the case. It’s that the reality was nowhere near as painful as the scenario my grief gave rise to. In fact, in some way, my grief for my Dad overshadowed it and therefore you might say I am more resilient to goodbyes now. That’s just not what my anxious thoughts and my wounded heart believe right now (nor my self-critic).

After yesterday’s experience, I no longer feel anxious about other impending goodbyes. Though I know some will be #totesemosh. That’s one of the challenges of recovering from grief: it is a journey and part of that is simply bearing with yourself as you gradually experience more events that prove to your battered psyche that not everything regarding loss involves intense pain.

How do you find endings? Have you considered it before?

ending quote

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