Why are Endings so Hard?
Dear Reader, I’ve been told that “why” questions are not good,
probably because answers to such questions are hard to come by. But
this is a good question, because it does have answers! So, why are
endings so hard? Let’s face it, endings just keep coming at us. With
enough understanding and patience, however, we might actually get
better at dealing with them!
I’ll share a favorite thought of mine: Sometimes the threads have no
weave. I see a picture of a mess of colored threads, all entangled in a
great pile. When grief comes knocking, our lives often look like this: a
great, confusing mess. We lose hope; we lose ourselves; we lose our
Our lives have been deeply interrupted. We can’t engage as we once
did. Our engagement with loved ones, friends, colleagues, work, and
life is no longer what it once was. Grief can shatter us, or just break
something in us that can’t be named, can’t be mended.
When my son died, I just couldn’t engage with this top-side world. I
had to get away; I needed a desert experience – alone. I needed to be
with the earth – on the earth – under the earth in a kiva. I needed to
feel something to accompany my grief. This was my only consolation.
Yes, dismantled. Everything seems to have come apart. There is no weave, no semblance of pattern or purpose. I’m tearful as I write this. I think that “dismantled” has to do with connection.
When I went to the desert of New Mexico, I was a ghost. I didn’t know
a soul. It was the perfect place for me, because I was only one of many
such ghosts. The Native people live in collective, historical grief. They
recognized me as one of them. Their grief, their skies, sacred
mountains and rivers held me together in some unfathomable way. We
were connected. There was a sense of belonging; a sense of
connection. I was understood without ever saying a word.
So much grief has to do with the roles we play: mother, father, son,
daughter, husband, wife, brother, sister, lover, friend, director, job, and
so on. From these roles, we acquire an identification, a purpose for
being. When we lose that role, we lose a vital sense of who we are.
This is a huge aspect of grief; and it sets up a serious challenge to the
And that’s what happened to me: my identification as “mother” was
truly damaged. Yes, I had other precious children, precious
grandchildren, but the way I identified myself in the world was through
motherhood. I felt that I had failed. I knew that I would never be the
same. It’s that mother and child thing. It’s about the roles. I’ve often
heard people say that a parent shouldn’t have to bury a child; it’s not
the natural order of things. Correct. I have to admit that this was the
hardest aspect to heal. It took the longest time before I could move
beyond this one.
I’m curious about this aspect of grief. We work so hard to get our lives
ordered, right?! To get ourselves and everything outside ourselves just
the way we want them. Ha! When we get things just right, we are truly
enchanted. I love this word! We have a glow, a sense of outrageous
well-being. I remember that feeling!
But when that enchantment is dismantled, for whatever reason, we are
shaken to the core; and we realize that we have control over very little.
I’m just realizing that New Mexico is called “The Land of Enchantment”.
Wow. The one year that I spent there was something beyond time and
space; it was enchanted, and so was I. A lot of healing took place, and
my connection to Mother Earth was indelibly printed on my soul. But
coming back into the world, as I had to, was anything but enchanting.
Surely, you know this one. Nothing feels right anymore, and you don’t
know where to put your next step. When you consider all the “endings” of our lives, it’s like a stack of blocks, precarious and
unbalanced; and each of our endings are disorienting. Maybe it becomes a way of life. Not to worry.
As enchanting as my desert experience was, I always wondered if the
stars would ever appear again. And something began to loosen in me –
an attachment to the world. I began to find inner resources that I
didn’t even know were there. I began to write – to sort and process my
A wise man once said that “everything that comes your way is blessed”.
Let’s ponder that. We don’t like change; the brain doesn’t like change.
But we might consider that our endings do indeed offer us portals to
insight, a deepening, ineffable quality that makes us richer. In time.
Throughout this article, we’ve been looking at “dis” words – the prefix
that negates substantial root words. For our purposes, we might look
at another prefix: “re”. What I know for sure, is that life continues to
re-new itself. I love the positivity of this prefix. We all know that
nothing will every make up for what and who has been lost. There will
always be a hole – a gap.
Did you know that the beautiful Native people always leave a gap in
their weavings? It’s on purpose, and it points to the possibilities of re-
newal and re-entry. We’re speaking here about those portals of insight,
because our stories of grief can do the same thing. We absolutely CAN
re-engage in life. We CAN re-structure our lives. We CAN expand our
sense of identification and even re-invent it! We CAN find enchantment in
everyday beauty. And we CAN get ourselves oriented with purpose and
passion. Is it easy? No. This is why it’s called “griefwork”.
I suddenly find myself laughing out loud: remembering a time VERY
long ago when I was giving a talk – long before I knew a thing abut grief.
(I was still living in my happy bubble.) The point of my message at that
time had something to do with “positivity”, and I had placed some
pretty flowers in a can on the podium. The point seemed obvious to
me, but some dear-hearted fellow, unbeknownst to me, went searching
for a lovely vase, and tenderly offered it to me as a replacement for the
CAN. I want to say, stick with the cans. Truth and beauty don’t always
come in pretty vases.
So, is it true that “everything that comes our way is blessed”? There’s
no doubt that grief and loss do shape our lives, and what we do with
those losses is all up to us. We’re the creators of our well-being.
Maybe that’s the blessing.
I want to recommend a beautiful book by William Bridges,
Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes
Celebrating 40 years of the best-selling guide for coping with life's changes, named one of
the 50 all-time best books in self-help and personal development -- with a new Discussion
Guide for readers, written by Susan Bridges and aimed at today's current people and
organizations facing unprecedented change
May you be at peace, GriefSpeak