This is the time of year of Goodbyes. . .
You may be so caught up in the fun of celebrating the end - the finish - the finally - of a completed year, diploma, certificate or degree - that's great. CELEBRATE it - memorize the moments of your 'bests' - hold in your memory as a 'place to go' when you hit that day when it feels and looks like nothing is going 'right'. Recall that stadium cheering, Recall that sense of pride receiving that applause for that hard work and well deserved award. Hopefully photos were taken - there are feelings in those precious moments that looking back - you may never feel again - or feel rarely.
Celebrate with gratitude for those who supported - sacrificed-spent-allowed and put up with all that went into making it happen. No one does it alone. There were people-places- things-circumstances-situations - opportunities that helped make it happen. Acknowledge them. Know them - as you will use and need them again!
I'm sharing during this very sentimental - emotional time to alert as many as possible to what is also going on that many don't identify - understand or share about.
The first is Grieving. This season of 'goodbyes' is actually a grieving period - so take time for it. Looking back at my 'graduations' I still find it remarkable that despite being so close to so many during each step - you may NEVER see those people again! Moving more times than I can count simply removed me from 'everyone' of my previous 'chapter' of life - and forced me to make a whole new set of friends. I always had an easy time making friends - especially in a 'public' career - its easy but those stepping out into 'real life' or a new level of school - and even those young enough to shift from elementary to 'middle' to High school - need to realize that there is a 'grieving'. We have to 'adjust' -leave behind - accommodate - learn new rules -navigate the new place - culture - people- networks - and some have a serious difficulty with this. Others breeze through - looking forward to 'growing up' -moving on - leaving behind the old - excited and adventurous about what's ahead.
Know the elements of Grieving as they affect the person -moving on. . .
Denial /Shock - that will happen in these next few weeks - the focus is on celebration - and should be - not unlike a real funeral - we gather together extend ourselves - enjoy the company - share the stories - but 'real life' without that structure - people - audience - measures of success have slipped away. We haven't thought how that will impact us yet . . .
- as the fun fades, the audience changes, the positive feedback stops, the intensity of having non-stop company, activities, tests, scores, practices, demands fades time allows in sadness. This can creep up slowly. It can get wedged into other losses. It can show up unexpectedly and not make sense at the time - when everything should be 'great' - since we did all the 'right' things. We finished - with all the right grades - knowledge-ideas and expectations they told us would happen if we followed the rules .. . but we discover that without all those people - excitement - demands - deadlines - we can float and when we're not busy enough sadness and realization of what we've left behind becomes a powerful emotion that we may have never dealt with before. Take time to comfort it - share out it - write it - paint it - get in touch with it - then take time to do something that shifts your emotion to a more comfortable place. It is okay to laugh - have pleasure - it is about incorporating it into your life - not ignoring it.
Anger - often people don't realize this phase, especially when the loss is a circumstance rather than a defined loved one. You may feel better being angry - as in itself - it feels powerful where sadness is often more difficult to 'manage' - but the anger of grieving is often displaced, unexpected and for women - seemingly inappropriate. It's very appropriate. You are trying to navigate through the closure of one chapter in your life and start a new one and not sure what you want to leave, will miss most when you leave, and now is when we really begin to see and value what we had that we didn't when we were busy in it. We may get angry at friends who were loafers in school that land that high paying job without college. We may get angry that the interview process is beyond anything that you prepared for and being rejected so often was something you didn't sign up for. You may be angry that now you feel like you were thrown out to the wolves to fend for yourself without knowing the basics despite graduating from that top school with an honors degree and now have to figure out how to select that 'best' job, place, companion, car, insurance, benefit package, having no money to do 'fun' anymore, being just downright disappointed that the 'fantasy' of having the right degree - people - car- grades - now means NOTHING when you don't have a steady job that pays enough to keep up the dream you had. It's okay to experience anger - just don't stay stuck in it. Use the energy of it to do constructive - courageous - committed things that will move you forward - even if it means a different path than 'everyone' else. Be creative. Be innovative. Be still if nothing else works!
Bargaining/Hope - many don't understand what this has to do in grieving. Its the battle of 'what if's' - it's the 'I wish I had . . ." - the life review after a loss that sets you to consider what if things were different. This can be the other side of anger - when you shift from being angry at - to reviewing your choices done differently. Its the 'if I had gone for that degree instead of that one. It's the I wish I spent more time doing - fill in the blank - more studying - more networking - more research - more exploring - more fun . . . its another review -take from it lessons - apply them as you move forward in your next phase or chapter. Get still and introspective - with most of it - 'it is what it is' - you made the decisions and choices based on what you knew THEN - and were obviously limited because none of us knew what was ahead. As Maya Angelou said - "When you know better - you do better" - forgive yourself - learn the lessons - apply them moving forward.
Acceptance - when things settle down - and we have allowed ourselves to review, process, incorporate, forgive and embrace what we lost, enjoyed, miss, want more of and learned about. We're now ready to close that chapter and move more freely into the next. We also realized that we still need elements of the past that served us well. We may have to use substitutes, replacements, new versions or innovation to get what we need but we're on our way and looking forward with optimism.
Here's suggestions to manage the elements of Grief:
- Journal - list - share with others about what helped you get to the finish. Most successful people have mentors, coaches, special teachers, instructors, guides, or spiritual leaders that encouraged with words, actions, time and knowledge. Network - volunteer - share openly that you are looking for someone with specific skills-knowledge- connections.
- Volunteer - DO NOT UNDER-ESTIMATE THE NEED - volunteering works both ways - you get to meet all types and kinds of people - get to 'do something' about a need - especially now that you custom fit to your own passions - and its a place where you will also get positive feedback - 'feel goods' - applause - hugs - and a sense of purpose. This cannot be under-estimated as it also puts you in a place where other adults see you WORKING - if you're participating, sharing, involved, using your skills , raising money, managing people - you are instantly increasing your 'employable status'. Don't think that sitting behind a computer can even compete with live action helping! Pick a cause you LOVE. Let your love - passion - commitment show.
- Participate in COMMUNITY ARTS - now there's no expectations - grades - or competition to 'win' - you can just create - act - draw - paint- mold - design - sing - dance - play music - write - and share time with like minded others. If you loved the process of art - join and take local art classes - that you want to take - not forced to. Try out for that play. Write that poetry. Attend anything related to your love - a concert, gallery, art show, parade, bands - now you can go and DO whatever you want to - don't stop just because school did. If you thrived on applause -try out for Summer Stock plays - a community or church choir, play in a band.
- READ WHAT YOU WANT! Seriously! After years of being forced to read textbooks, classics, manuals, essays - now you can read ANYTHING - make a list of books you've put off reading - 'shop' on amazon - set up a wish list - get to your library - enjoy the freedom of our country and read ANYTHING you want. Get back to pleasure reading. Get your curiosity back - if you don't read books - then sign up for blogs - websites - online sites that focus on the topics YOU want to know more about. The brakes are off - enjoy pleasure reading again!
This all when you're not busy finding that job, career, paying opportunity, interviewing, and waiting for those first real paychecks - that's a different 'share'. Enjoy the Journey! and NEW Chapter!