A college friend recently remarried and moved away from Atlanta. I seriously contemplated the many changes in his life….new wife, new stepdaughter, new city, new job, new friends, and a new home.
Talk about change. Essentially, every single thing in his life has changed.
Instantly, I understood why one might have a grief response to marriage - even a much wanted and very happy marriage.
One definition of grief is “reaching for someone (or something) that has always been there, only to find that when you really need them, they are not there.”
Imagine struggling with a new job and wanting the comfort of home – but it’s not there. Or struggling with the new role as stepparent and needing the support of friends – but they’re not there. Or needing to “chill” in a favorite coffee shop where the staff knows your name and your drink – but it's not there.
I think of my ex-husband who came to Atlanta from Peru. He experienced all of the above plus a new language and a new culture to boot. How totally disorienting. Every single thing he would have reached for in Peru was gone.
What a lot of change. What a lot of loss.
But also, you say, what a lot of gain. Which it is. But a new marriage isn’t an either/or proposition. We gain AND we lose.
So while marrying the person of our dreams would be, well, dreamy, the reality is also hard. I hope that my recently married friend is navigating the changes effortlessly, but most of us wouldn’t. Most of us would be alternately happy, excited, scared, lonely, and out of sorts. And then we’d wonder what was wrong with us when we’d just said “I do” to the person we love most.
Grief comes in many forms and for many reasons. The grief of a break-up doesn’t come as a surprise. We expect that. But, often times, grief will come when we least expect it, like when we’ve married the person of our dreams.
So what to do when all of the people and things we’ve turned to are no longer there? Recognize that grief comes in many forms. Even the “good stuff” can cause grief. Acknowledge the losses – of which there are many – and know that the grief you are experiencing is the normal and natural reaction to loss.
Let the negative feelings occur without resistance and they'll pass. Don't do a job on yourself (or your new spouse) for the grief that you feel. Because that grief you feel is real….even when you've happily said “I do!”
Many of the good things in life – things that we want - cause grief. A new marriage, a new baby, a new job, a promotion, or a new house. What grief have you experienced from one of the "good things" that you weren’t expecting? Do tell!