Grieving the Loss

August 11, 2010

We have some sayings in our house. One of them is
“Grieve the Loss.” It stems from all the time I have spent in
therapy and reading psycho-babble literature and listening to
counseling shows. I think it also concisely states an
important ability. I remember a college professor saying once
that one of the most vital skills is developing the ability to
“grieve well the losses of life.” I’ve read
Necessary Losses by Judith Viorst. (Yes, it’s
the same lady who wrote the classic picture book
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad
Grieve the loss. We apply this saying often in
our house. Bridget, age 5: Mom, I
really want some chocolate milk even though dinner is in 2 minutes.
Me: Well, honey, you’re going to have
to grieve the loss. Or Lucy, age 11: I
want to do a sleepover with my friend tonight. Me:
Sorry. It’s not a great night for that.
Grieve the loss. Or Phoebe, age 9: I
wish I could have my own room and not have to share with Bridget.
Me: I wish it too. Maybe someday
we’ll have the money to build out the loft, but until then, you’ll
have to grieve the loss. You get the picture. On a more serious
note, I spend time grieving the loss of disappointed hopes of
friendships that have soured. Of idealistic expectations of
myself that I’ve been unable to attain. Of my wish that Dave
were more of a night-owl, like me. Of thinking I’ll ever get done
with our family’s laundry. Grieve the loss, grieve the loss.
Yesterday I caught a glimpse of Lucy grieving the loss. It
was a step forward in her inevitable journey of leaving childhood
and becoming an adult. Talk about a process fraught with
Grief! But also with Joy. Lucy loves horses. She’s
taken riding lessons since she was six. She rides
English-style dressage, and is learning to jump. Her room is
plastered with horse drawings, horse photographs, watercolor horses
she’s painted, posters she’s carefully torn from her Young Rider
magazines. She talks about horses a lot. Sometimes we
have to keep from yawning or letting our eyes glaze over too much
when she recounts each detail of her riding lessons or time she’s
spent at her teacher’s ranch. Sometimes we have to be honest
and say, “We know you love horses, but not everyone is that
interested in them. So pay attention and don’t overwhelm us
or your friends with your horse talk.” Now, I have to tell
you that Lucy is also a very sweet and tenderhearted girl. A girl
that has always loved being with me and our family. A girl
who likes being home. When she was very little, she would
claim things like, “I am going to live with you and Daddy
forever.” And of course we’d say things like,
“We love you too, sweetie, but you’ll probably change your mind
about that some day.” Well. This week Lucy is helping out at
a horse camp where she rides. She’s a “counselor,” helping
out with the campers who are all new students. She also has
the opportunity to spend the night one night with the three other
counselors in the old trailer that is parked down by the
horses. Yesterday morning she bounced out of bed, excited by
the prospects of the day. She was telling me all their plans
for the sleepover including the sunset trail ride and braiding the
mane of one of the horses. She stopped suddenly and said, “I
haven’t really been with you much recently, since you were out of
town, and now I’m at camp all day and all night tonight…”
Me: Well, that’s what happens when you
get older. You do things you love and spend less time with
your family. It’s part of growing up. (I promise you I did
not say this in a snarky tone, or in a way that was subtly designed
to induce guilt. I was matter-of-fact, thanks to the fact that the
night before, I had lamented that very reality to Dave and he set
my thinking straight. She’s growing up. Grieve the loss.)
What was interesting and poignant was watching her
suddenly grieve the loss. Her face grew
thoughtful, and her eyes filled with tears. I pulled her into
a hug. In that moment, she was grieving the loss. The
loss of the notion that being with her mom, her all-in-all
when she was four years old, did not really encompass the breadth
of her heart’s desires. The loss of the innocence behind that
old conviction that she would always want to live with us.
The loss of childhood, in a way. Lucy is far from grown up.
But I see little glimpses, and this was a big one, that she is
choosing to grieve, so that she can choose the Joy that follows
Grief. And it was Joy, not Grief, that I saw in her eyes as we
pulled up the horse ranch and she bounded out of the car to find
her fellow horse-enthusiasts and of course, the horses.


7 Responses to “Grieving the Loss”

  1. LP said

    Tell sweet Lucy that she better drop by and say hi on her way to PrimeTime once it starts on Sundays – I already miss her knowing she’s not the CAT over in room 8 for us! It really won’t be the same not having Lucy and M.B. there as our CATs! Early Childhood is lucky to get them 🙂 Then again, I guess at least I’m still getting some of your family – now I’ll actually see you and Dave instead of waving across the courtyard! Hooray!

  2. Laura Peterson said

    Leanne, I loved reading this. I have a sneaking suspicion that I will find myself perusing your blog often. 🙂 It was great to meet you and Dave at Hutchmoot!

  3. kelli said


    This brought tears to my eyes. We have had glimpses of this with our girls…just little things along the way. Grieving the loss is often so tangled with joy, isn’t it? Oh…it’s hard, but how thankful I am that your sweet daughter had a mom who wrapped her up in truth and love…both in words and arms.

    This was beautiful:)

  4. Melody said

    Leanne, I love reading your insights into things – your girls are growing up into wonderful ladies – thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. Suzanne said

    This had the fragrance of a tender truth… thank you! I’ve been sharing it as it seems fitting… I’m going to enfold this phrase into my life and work.

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