I congratulated my Doctor friend on his upcoming retirement. He was pushing 70 and I thought he’d be excited to have some time to enjoy life. Instead, he said, “This is the worst thing that could happen to me.” He was miserable about it. And he looked it. The idea of retirement had aged him and taken its toll on his psyche. To him, losing his beloved job was not something to celebrate. I said to him, “Doctor, do you realize you are suffering an acute form of grief?” He looked at me surprised, but he was open to this idea.
We grieve when time periods end: I used to grieve after I came home from summer camp. My parents called it depression, but today I recognize it as a form of grief. I was sad that my respite was over and that I had to return to real life and begin school once again.
We grieve when we perceive we’ve lost opportunities: Have you ever not gotten a promotion at work? Or by the time you mustered up the courage to ask someone out, they were already involved with someone else?
We grieve over perceived bad choices made in life: Looking back, I often second guess myself. Could I have made better choices? Could I have done things better, could I have been more efficient and less impetuous? Of course I could have, but I didn’t.
Once I recognize it as grief, I can feel my feelings. I can embrace my disappointment, and pray for acceptance of what was and what is. I can accept life as it is and move forward. But I have to pause to allow myself the space to dignify the loss. Sometimes the loss is real, or sometimes it’s my perception that I’ve lost. Either way, when I take the time to acknowledge it, to grieve it, I can move on with more joy and acceptance.
I saw my doctor friend again a few weeks later and he was more at peace. He had settled into the idea of his retirement and he had come to terms with it. He thanked me for pointing out to him that he was grieving. It helped him understand the process he was going through.
Have you ever grieved for something other than death? I’d love to hear your experience if you’d care to share!