Beginnings Make Me Sad
By Kelly Wright
Fall is my favorite time of year and it’s also the time the I grieve the most.
I love Autumn! I am crazy over the beauty of fall leaves, sweatshirt weather, and routine after the fun and spontaneity that summer brings. I love Mizzou Football, cooler temperatures, and Thanksgiving. But as I approach the end of summer and the beginning of Fall, I hold both joy and grief. My rhythm for as long as I can remember has been: Memorial Day Gladness and Labor Day Blues.
My family loves spending time at the Lake in the summer. Memorial Day weekend is filled with such joy as we listen to Yacht Rock and anticipate time relaxing in the water, laughing with friends, and taking time away in the beauty and quiet rhythm of lake life. It’s the weekend when summer seems long and inviting. But at the start of summer, I feel some sadness. Will I blink and the summer be over? I try to manage my grief by planning as much fun as possible knowing that once July 4th arrives, half the summer is gone.
On the other hand, Labor Day weekend is a mixed bag of emotions. Yacht Rock is a sadder soundtrack and brings about feelings of gratitude for all the fun this summer has held, and feelings of sadness and shock that summer is over. As predicted, I blinked, and summer flew by. It’s the weekend of endings and the reality of how quickly time goes. Memorial Day Gladness and Labor Day Blues.
Every new beginning brings about an end.
Lots of beginnings hold both gratitude and grief simultaneously. Starting a new job is an end to not only where you used to work, but also working with the friends you had there. Marriage is the end of being single. Having a baby is the end of just being the two of you. Moving to a new home is saying goodbye to the memories of the old place. Every hello brings a goodbye. We don’t always think of grief this way, as
We grieve any change or loss we experience.
This time of year, many families have children that have started back to school or started school for the first time. As much as I loved the beginning of a new school year when my kids were growing up, it also signified in a very tangible way that time truly is a thief. My first tidal wave of holding this space of joy and grief this time of year was sitting on the side of Wilson’s swimming pool during my 4-year-old daughter’s swim lessons. As she learned how to kick and put her head under water, I grieved. I was flooded with tears because the realization hit me out of nowhere, that the following year she would start Kindergarten. Now mind you, we had an entire year before I needed to process that change, but my heart was grieving. I was experiencing all the feelings that change can bring - shock, sadness, anger, confusion, and acceptance.
As I hid behind sunglasses and let my tears flow, I was shocked at how fast time had gone.
My little girl was growing up and I was sad. I also felt annoyed with myself. Had I made the most of every moment with her? Strangely enough I was also happy.
She couldn’t wait to go to school, and I loved watching her continue to grow and learn.
Grieving those experiences that hold both joy and sadness can be confusing. We question why we are feeling the way we do when overall the change is positive. We have a challenging enough time grieving all the loss we experience, let alone the experiences that hold joy. I remember talking with friends about my grieving at the pool and hearing from many of them how grateful they were to know that that was a normal, healthy experience.
It was there by the pool, watching Madison learn to swim, that I learned that I am a pre-griever. This isn’t an actual, technical term – it’s one I made up. Pre-grieving means that I (and many of you) grieve before the change or loss occurs. Pre-grievers usually grieve beginnings so that by the time they reach the end, they have already processed much of their feelings. On Madison’s first day of Kindergarten, I had a few tears, but most of my tears had already fallen.
Pre-grieving can be confusing because you’re not in the actual time when grief occurrence is happening. People who have loved ones struggling with terminal illness are familiar with this way of grief. There’s grief when the diagnosis is given, when health declines, when hospice begins. You can grieve over time when you anticipate that change or loss is coming.
It was strange to grieve on the side of the pool when I had an entire year before Madison went to kindergarten. Many times, when those emotions arise before the experience, we shut the feelings down and subconsciously tell our heart it’s not time. But if you are willing to pre-grieve, you give space for your heart to express your feelings a bit at a time before the loss or change comes. It also allows for holding both grief and joy. If we aren’t processing our grief, our joy is diminished.
As you consider holding both grief and joy, I encourage you to think about those places that you are holding both. Maybe start by setting a timer for two minutes and jotting down all the things you can think of that you are grateful for. Then set the timer again for two minutes, jotting down things that you are grieving. The list won’t be exhaustive but will give you an idea of what you are holding in both areas of your life.
For me, I’m thankful for Autumn and the cooler temperatures, football season, and the start of school. I’m also grieving that another year is ending, summer fun is coming to an end, and soon, I’ll be another year older as well. But in holding both, I can process my feelings and continue to see God’s faithfulness and ultimate truth – one day we will be in a place where there will be no more beginnings and endings, no more sorrow, and no more tears, and where Yacht Rock is the endless soundtrack that never has to end.