Birthday Cake Epiphany – Part 2: The Good Grief

Photo: Ilana Hulsey Rea

So, the birthday cake was a hit yesterday.  Yellow cake with raspberry buttercream and lemon curd filling.  Chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream and raspberry filling.  Quite tasty.  Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah….

On the other hand, the birthday girl was not her usual happy, gregarious self.  She seemed…sad, even when she tried not to.  Background:  she took a coveted job that bumped her from a very busy, part-time, self-employed schedule to a full-time director position with paid health benefits (very desired in today’s volatile insurance market) in addition to the retention of her previous business. She’s married with two school-age kids.  The most striking thing that she said all day is that although she is over the moon about her new job, she feels like everyone in her life is angry with her.

Why is everyone so angry? 

This question troubled me all night.  At first, I thought it’s because she is a woman, and women tend to keep relationships and families centered and focused.  So, maybe, there’s some resentment that she’s not as available and flexible to the wants and needs of her life’s relationships.

Maybe. Maybe not.  People are much more complex than that.  The new job she took is one that originally thrilled people in her life.

I mentioned to her that she (and they) are in a transition period.  Everyone is adjusting to shifts in time and energy.  But that observation still doesn’t feel adequate.

Epiphany #2

Then it hit me.  Perhaps this is a grief period.

I went through one when Kiddo started kindergarten.  My role changed from full-time caregiver and influencer to allowing teachers to influence my child, her behavior and self-perception.  My days were open for the first time since I was a child, and I felt unfocused, unanchored for several weeks.  I told myself, “For the next 30 days do not commit to anything new other than adopting a self-care routine and the most basic of home care.  Don’t commit to volunteering, to de-cluttering the basement, to anything, really.  Commit to being present and acknowledge where you are at this time of change.”

And I felt a lot, particularly sadness and fatigue, even depression.  It was grief.  The only way past it is through it.  I’m still in those 30 days, by the way.  But as I mentioned in my last post, I am getting my focus back, by acknowledging the transition.

The Good Grief

Photo: The RobCast by Rob Bell

With every change (positive or negative), there is a grief period.  In his podcast, The Good Grief, Rob Bell describes this inherent and necessary part of the change process.  With positive change (new job, success, promotion, winning the lottery, kid going off to college) there is a loss, just as there is in negative change (loss of a job, loved one, etc.).  It may not “feel” equal, but nonetheless it is a loss. And a period of adjustment and transition is in order.

Luckily, I ran across this podcast in the weeks before the school year started.  It gave me perspective on why I felt I needed to cry at the thought of Kiddo in school.  Why I was angry at “the system” taking my kid from me. We’re talking crying at the level of when I lost my sister to cancer.  I wasn’t prepared for that level of emotion. (Maybe there’s a healthy dose of perimenopause mixed in, too.)  The podcast validated what I was feeling (and still feel), and gave it a name, something I can work through.

Now, I think I will forward Rob’s link along to my friend.  Couldn’t hurt.



2 Replies to “Birthday Cake Epiphany – Part 2: The Good Grief”

  1. Good thoughts. interesting that the “related” blog entries at the bottom showed Lessons on Falling from 2014. so I re-read that piece and your last paragraph struck me as relevant:

    “Ah, I want to be like Em.   There really was no emotion or second guessing in her decision after she fell learning how to climb the big kids’ ladder.  She got right back up and practiced over and over again and with joy until she conquered that mountain, bruised lip and all.  She proves her greatness just from that act of trust in herself and commitment to mastering her play.”

    As adults it would seem that the cost of falling is much greater. don’t know if that’s _actually_ true or not, but seems that way. Good Grief indeed 🙂

    1. Hmmm – perhaps the stakes are proportional to our stage in life? They often seem to be wrapped around the identity of job and relationships. Except a child’s job of learning, socializing and growing may seem insignificant to an adult, but can impact their entire future (like learning to speak or walk).

What are your thoughts?