2019 - June - Gazette - Transition
Transitions have been on my mind a lot lately. Transitions mean changes and all changes, even positive ones, involve loss. Much of my work is about companioning people through changes and loss, mostly the loss of loved ones. And I believe the more we attend to smaller changes and loss the better it prepares us for the bigger ones, like death.
Health issues, moving, downsizing and retiring, are all transitions and changes. So is having your youngest child graduate from high school and head off to college. That is the transition happening in my life right now and the one I’ve been studying to better understand my feelings. The more I learn about loss and grief, the better I can be with others on their journeys. Although I recognize the transition I’m experiencing can in no way compare to the loss of a loved one, it’s still a life change, albeit one where I recognize how fortunate I am to have our children and be able to go through these experiences with them.
As I’ve been going through this transition, here are a few of the things I’ve noticed:
- The feelings are many and varied – In a text group with my extended family, my brother asked why graduation ceremonies were so emotional. My immediate thought was because you know that a change is taking place and you’re anticipating the losses that will occur – the absence of a family member, the loss of a way of living you’ve known, and the end to a season in your life to name a few. But as I thought more about it, I realized for me the emotion of graduation is also about the immense gratitude for having these children in my life and the overwhelming love and pride I feel for who they are. I felt these things when our daughter graduated from high school and college and am now feeling them with our son. Kahlil Gibran wrote:
“Your joy is sorrow unmasked…
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
I think that explains a lot of the emotions I’ve felt. However, these aren’t the only emotions. I’ve also felt excitement. Our son is about to head out on his own, go to a small liberal arts college in New York, study biopsychology and play on a D1 FCS football team – very exciting. And this is just the beginning of the rest of his life and all that is in store for him. As for the emotion of fear, thankfully that hasn’t played much of a role. I trust that he’s ready for this next step and know that we are too. (But it isn’t August yet…)
- It’s important to feel what you’re feeling and say what you need to say – When I’ve tried to fight the emotions, it has taken more energy and been harder than actually feeling them. Once I feel them, their grip on me seems to lessen a little. And saying what matters is crucial. I’ve told our son how grateful we are for having him in our lives, for these years together and how we know he’s ready for what comes next. On a hike in the forest at Greenwood Furnace State Park, my husband and I reminisced about these years with our children at home. On the way out, we talked about our intentions for ours and our children’s futures and then crossed a small, wooden, walking bridge, held hands and hopped off the end to the gravel path committing to our new future together. It gives us peace of mind to do the best we can to help prepare all of us for this transition.
- Participating in rituals helps – Just as my husband and I found peace from our impromptu ritual at Greenwood Furnace, the role of ritual and ceremony can be so meaningful in taking us from one place and moving us to another. After attending our son’s high school graduation ceremony and then several friends’ graduation parties, I felt a shift. The kids graduated. We honored them. We celebrated them. They were graduates and we were parents of graduates and we were all ready to move on.
- Reach out for help along the way – I’ve spoken to parents of recent graduates. I’ve spoken to parents whose kids graduated years ago. I’ve talked to other moms who want to meet as we navigate this transition. It helps to know you’re not alone and learn how those before you have made it through.
Transitions can be hard but being present to them can help and it’s my experience that many people find they are grateful for at least pieces of the transformation that results. If you are interested in having conversations about transitions relating to death and the loss of loved ones, you are invited to:
- Monday’s Moments Complimentary Luncheon – “Life Goes On, How Do You?” Monday, July 8 from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott, 1730 University Drive, State College – When you lose a loved one, you know you’ve changed, but the rest of the world doesn’t always know that. And when the initial support starts to wane with others going back to their lives, how do you reconcile with your new life? At this gathering, we’ll discuss how to care for yourself as you move through the grief. Please email Jackie@JackieHook.com, call 814-404-0546 or sign up on the Koch Funeral Home
Facebook page to RSVP by Wednesday, July 3.
- Death Café, July 15 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Webster’s Bookstore Café, 133 E. Beaver Avenue, State College with complimentary desserts provided by Webster’s - Please join us at our third Monday of the month Death Café where we’ll drink coffee and tea, eat cake and discuss death. Our goal is to increase awareness to help us all make the most of our lives. Together we’ll have a group-directed discussion with no agenda, objectives or themes. This is a discussion group not a grief support or counseling session.
For more information about these programs, please visit the Koch Funeral Home website’s Bereavement Gatherings and Events section under the Local Resources tab. All of these events are open to the public and space is limited.
We hope you join us at one of these events and please don’t worry about me. Our daughter is in town and my husband and I plan to attend most if not all of our son’s college football games so we’ll be having all kinds of fun!
Jackie Hook, MA, is a spiritual director, celebrant and end-of-life doula. She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College. For more information, please call 814-237-2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com.