What do we associate with the word grief?
For a lot of people, death is the first thing that comes to mind. The loss of a loved one or beloved pet. But death is not the only cause of grief, and I would think, not even the most common.
The role of grief in our lives is so much larger than I think most of us realize. We experience grief for the death of a loved one, of course, but also for the loss of a loved one by other means – through divorce, geographic loss, distancing of a friendship. Any time we experience a sense of loss, grief can help us heal. The loss of a job, a hope, health, an opportunity, an expectation, missing a treasured event, etc. – all of these are losses that may need to be grieved.
Several years ago I was suddenly, unexpectedly, and indelicately removed from a position at a company that I absolutely adored. I was offered the chance to stay with the company in a different capacity, but without all the parts of my job that made me excited to go to work every day. I left the company shortly after.
I was devastated by this experience – the loss of this thing I loved to do, of daily purpose and meaning. I was terrified of going back to work and experienced severe anxiety, depression, and frequent bouts of agoraphobia for almost a year afterward. But even while I was experiencing all of that, I felt guilty and ashamed. I blamed myself for the loss of the job and for being unable to “pick myself up” and go back to work. It took me years to realize that I had never given myself permission to grieve, or even realized that what I needed to do was grieve.
The loss of that job completely changed the course of my life. I had worked at the company for only two years, but I had begun to see a path for growth and a future for myself there. I had begun to form an idea of what my life might look like. When I was fired, that future vanished in an instant along with any grasp I had on what my future might look like at all.
Five years later and I still have not gotten over the loss. This is the first time I’ve ever talked about it openly. Five years later, it is still a loss I am grieving, easier now than at the beginning, but as with all grief – a loss that may never completely go away.
I work from home now because of the wound inflicted by that loss. I have severe anxiety about getting attached to a job, about loving my work, about negotiating relationships with coworkers and bosses. The latter of which, in part, led to my dismissal.
I hope someday to find work that lights me up in the way that job did, that makes it possible for me to leap the hurdle of my anxiety and fear and have coworkers again. But this grief will take as long as it takes to heal. I can’t rush it no matter how much I might want to. And no one else can rush it either, no matter how much they might not understand it.
No matter what kind of loss you may be experiencing or have experienced, remember that in this way, all loss is the same. It requires time and room for grief before you will be able to successfully move on. And though the pain of the loss may ease, you may never completely get over it.