Endings, endings, endings everywhereBy Emma Pearson
September 22, 2023
Main image by Ben Wicks on Unsplash
9 July 2023
One of my favourite “change” models (and I know quite a few) is that of Bill Bridges – and crucially, it’s called “Transitions”. I love this man’s work for so many reasons – not least because I trained for my first marathon, back in 1997, with his daughter Sarah, when I lived in Minneapolis for a period. Little did I realise that I would get to know – and deeply value – what I was starting to explore even back then – because his work and reputation was already well established.
Fast forward a few years, at my parents’ time of retirement, I bought a copy of “Transitions” for my dad because I felt he risked falling into the classic “high achieving male meets retirement crisis” trap unless he paid some attention to the process. We had some good discussions about his ideas, and now, over 20 years into an enjoyable retirement, I think he could even write his own book.
What I love about “Transitions” is that Bridges distinguishes between the event that happens (retirement, having a baby, being made redundant, the company re-org, changing jobs, getting married, losing a spouse etc etc) and the psychological process, the transition, that follows. The event is a flick of a switch. Blink and you might miss it. The transition though – well, that goes on, and on and on, and is – or can be – extremely messy.
I also love the way Bridges says, “Transitions begin with endings, and end with new beginnings”. I remember how counter-intuitive that phrase sounded when I first read it. Huh? Doesn’t seem to make sense. But of course – things are ending….and with a loved one’s death, lots of things are ending… some immediately, some over time. And it’s a lengthy, messy process to come to adapt to those endings, and an even lengthier process – perhaps equally messy – to come to incorporate some new beginnings. But that is what has to happen. Along with plenty of honouring of the endings, grieving what is lost, experimenting with new things, over and over.
This week has been a week of endings.
Yesterday I hung up my hat and bowed deeply to the Maison de Tara hospice where I have facilitated the anglophone training programme for new volunteers for the past 3+ years. The training will continue for new volunteers, but will be in French only. Suddenly 11 Saturdays free up, along with the inevitable preparation and alignment that goes along with this kind of work. I will miss it and don’t underestimate the gifts I have received from having that role. I have few places in my life where I find people who are interested in exploring, discussing, pondering, what it is to accompany someone to their final breath, what “life after” is like. I have few pockets of space where people “know all that has happened to me” before we even start a conversation. It’s precious. I will grieve the safety of that lost pocket.
And this week is my last time writing my weekly blog for Soaring Spirits’ Widow’s Voice. For the last nearly four years, starting shortly after Julia’s death, I have been “Girl Tuesday”. Each week – sometimes right up to the deadline – I’d find a topic to noodle. Sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. Sometimes I’d be exploring my thinking or emotions about something for days – or months – before putting pen to paper. And sometimes the idea would come in a flash and the words pour out. Only on two occasions that I recall did I really scratch my head and wonder, “hmm – what the hell to write about this week?” For it’s been quite a commitment to honour, and one that I did not take lightly. Only on one week, when high up in the Pyrenees last summer, did I need to call in to have the blog page coordinator resubmit an older piece. But something went up every single Tuesday.
And today I hand over my Girl Tuesday role to Diana M. She will take over the reins as of next Tuesday and I wish her much
enjoyment?, pleasure?, fun?, I am not sure what to wish – but for sure, I have gained insights, perspective, self-awareness, acknowledgement, connection – and I am sure a great deal more.
A bit about Diana. Diana was widowed at 29. Her love story with her husband Erik began in the most unexpected of places, the Long Beach DMV. That day, it felt as though fate had brought them together. Their fairytale romance blessed them with a lifetime of love that would now be expressed through grief.
Saint Patrick’s Day of 2022 became the time stamp of when Diana’s life changed forever. The day that she became a widow and a solo parent to one and a half year old twins. The day that her husband died by suicide. The day that her training in emergency management kicked in as she tried to save her husband’s life. And the day that she learned her husband was suffering in silence.
Diana is sharing her story and experience as she navigates how to overcome this new reality in the hope that it will be someone else’s survival guide one day.
Diana – I am so sorry that you have need of Soaring Spirits. And I am so glad you have found this precious community. Welcome to this sacred space, fit for noodling your widowing experience. I wish you whatever you wish for. I pass the widowing torch to you, and may it continue to burn brightly.
I will continue to write on my own blogsite, Widowing Empty Nests, but it might be a little less frequent than weekly (http://www.widowingemptynests.com/). I have been writing there for the past 6+ years since Mike died. I will also continue to facilitate the Multiple Losses group for people who have lost both a spouse and a child. That too is a very safe pocket in my life. I value it enormously.
I will also continue with my volunteering at the hospice, and I will continue my “Let’s Talk about Death over Dinner” soirées.
As for new beginnings, I am founding a group I am calling AGOG – Anglophone Grieflings of Geneva – for anyone in the area who has lost a spouse or a child or both. I need more “real life” grieflings in my life. We’ll meet as of September onwards. Anyone who meets the criteria is welcome.
And finally a big thank you to the team at Soaring Spirits – you do such good and important work. I’ve made some beautiful friends thanks to the Toronto 2018 conference, and those friendships continue to be nourished – sometimes virtually, but even in real physical form. Later this week I will join fellow and most precious widbud Charlotte for a week’s walking along some of Brittany’s coastline. I would not have met her were it not for Soaring Spirits.
We have this phrase among widbuds and Grieflings – we wish we hadn’t met one another, but we are so glad we have. One of the very many bittersweet, whole truths, of life post-loss(es).
Thank you for the honour and the privilege. It’s been so meaningful.
Things forever ending. Endings and more endings, over and over.
And always new beginnings. Every moment.
image by Karan Thakkar on Unsplash