There is a time in life when you expect the world to be always full of new things. And then comes a day when you realize that is not how it will be at all. You see that life will become a thing made of holes. Absences. Losses. Things that were there and are no longer. And you realize, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps, though you can put your hand out to where things were and feel that tense, shining dullness of the space where the memories are.
— Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk
I mentioned a few blog posts ago that I’ve been loving my Next Right Thing Guided Journal. I truly recommend it if you ever need some questions and guidance to help you journal. And of course, I have tons of blog posts on journaling. But for me, I’ve been noticing this theme of returning grief. I wrote about grief a while back in this post. And while that was super helpful to get off my chest, it doesn’t feel quite finished.
I am learning to reckon with this idea that grief returns.
I am a third year UVA student. Next year is supposed to be shiny and exciting. My last year of college! Back to somewhat ~normal~ activities. A year full of laughter, adventure, friendship, classes, and community. What I do feel is this keen sense of awareness of an oncoming ache. This season sort of mirrors my high school season of junior year.
Recent Post: When Love is Worth Keeping Around
In high school, in 2017, this album Lovely Little Lonely came out by The Maine. It’s by far my favorite album by them topping my previous favorite American Candy. But this album is so nostalgic for me. It’s about looking at all the ways we’ve grown and the things we wanted and looking at how much has changed, how much has stayed the same.
There is so much in my life that is absolutely different from that season. I live for the majority of time in a completely different state. I’m surrounded by different people, involved in new things, and have made a new home and space for myself. But the feeling of knowing the nostalgia and ache that lies ahead—that remains the same for me. David Levithan puts it so poignantly The things I love will become the things I miss.
My life is turning into memories. And if I’m lucky enough, there is so much that lies ahead. But considering the pattern, there is much I will leave behind. I have to contend with that somehow.
The funny thing about this sort of intangible grief is that even if that loss wasn’t there, the present would still look so different than what’s in my head.
Losing relationships can be so hard. I often think that everyone that enters my life intends to stay. And maybe they do. But more often than not, they leave. That’s a sad reality for me to accept but it’s the truth. Sometimes they leave because it’s their season to leave. Sometimes the relationship has broken apart and it is no longer life giving. Sometimes it’s a mutual parting.
Recent Post: Change, Consistency, and the 1% rule
This sort of loss can lead to two extremes—extreme attachment or extreme detachment. Neither of these are healthy. Clinging to everyone hoping they’ll stay actually hinders investing in the relationships that are worthwhile and worthy of clinging onto. It ignores the reality that some people are supposed to be acquaintances. Extreme detachment is trying to distance yourself from every relationship. But we need to be in community. Maybe it’s just the extrovert in me speaking, but I get really lost in my thoughts and spiral a little without others to ground me. Part of the joy of life, especially college, is connecting with people you would have never thought to connect to otherwise. Connection is necessary.
The hardest part in the intangible grief is learning to grow in the gaps of what was lost. In the Brothers Karamazov (which I finished reading this past weekend, WOO!), the epigraph is John 12:24 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Dostoevsky’s favorite gospel was John. This verse is relevant because it says when something dies and is buried into the ground, it will bring much fruit.
Oftentimes, the death of a relationship, of a dream, of a person, those events don’t seem like these are the things that will bring new life into our lives. And that can be true. Grief isn’t black and white. It can absolutely wreck us. It can wreck our lives completely. But with one seed, one death, new life has the potential to spring forth.
Look for new life.
New life may not look like the grief is resolved. New life may not look like a dream being fulfilled. New life may not look like a relationship reconciled.
What has been growing in you since that death? Maybe you are kinder to friends, knowing what the loss of friendship can do. Maybe you connect with other loved ones more, after the death of one turned your world upside down. Maybe you have a new simple idea of something to do while you are recovering from the death of a dream.
Recent Post: Longing and Yearning
While we always have memories to look back on, it is good to know that there is potential for something to grow. Something far beyond our imaginations. And it can be sweet.
Just a reminder: you can hold the sweet and bitter at once. One doesn’t cancel out the other. You are fully allowed to feel grief for what you have lost and joy for what you have.
I hope, friend, that you can see what is growing in you and around you. I hope you are able to dream new dreams. I hope your grief turns to joy.
*Play Living with Hope by Helen Jane Long*