It started when you saw the boxes. You knew your friend would be moving, but it felt so far away. Now, the calendar page has flipped and you see your blank weeks. The realization is sinking in that the friend you share your days with will soon be gone and you will remain.
Sometimes the hardest season comes after waving goodbye to friends who PCS. The emotions that come with grief are tricky, and although it is extremely important to handle them, it is easier to box them up in our minds with the hope we never have to unpack. Sadly, no movers will ever take these boxes and they will begin to burden us with effort and crowd out the joy in our mind. In order to avoid this constant burden, we must recognize the grief, sit with it, and then decide to find joy where we remain.
1. Recognize the grief.
It is important to capture our feelings with words. Try looking up a list of emotions and use a journal to write out every one you have experienced in the last week. Know that you will feel multiple emotions at once. It is normal to feel excited for your friend’s new journey as well as resentful that you are staying. You may feel disappointed that plans have changed or grateful that your friend gave you a box of clothes in her purge. Mark each emotion down.
2. Sit with it.
Sitting with emotions means looking at our list of emotions and writing out why and when we feel them. Emotions that come with change can be uncomfortable. Oftentimes they creep in, and when we don’t sit with them, they push us to extreme behaviors. Serving or working ourselves to the bone may be the coping skill we turn to when we want to avoid guilt or jealousy; perhaps we lash out in anger at our spouse or kids when really it is a fear of loneliness that is disguising itself. Take some time to sit with your list of emotions so they don’t creep up and surprise you with unwanted behaviors. Own these feelings so then you can deciding what to do with them.
3. Decide to find joy in what remains.
All too often people are told to “move on” or “just be happy,” but this can’t be done with the boxed up hard emotions still crowding our mind. Once we have recognized and sat with these feelings, we can now decide what to do with them. Try assigning a specific action with each emotion.
For the feeling of jealousy, create a gratitude list.
For neglect, serve a family by babysitting or making a meal.
For loneliness join a book club, church or meet up.
For boredom, find a new park.
For bitterness, rearrange your house to make it feel new.
These plans not only give us a purpose to our actions, but they allow us to unpack our emotions and find a place to put them in our mind. When those boxes are gone, we have space to find joy in what remains.