The Losses of Gain
This morning my son said “Mommy, I miss Toccoa.” We moved from that city to our new home this summer and occasionally our kids will wax nostalgic about our old home. My immediate reaction has been to worry that they aren’t adjusting to their new surroundings and that I’m not doing a good job helping them settle in and make new friends.
But that’s not what my son meant. He wasn’t making a negative comment about our current home. He’s adjusting just fine, as are our girls. All three have made friends, love their new school and being in Rabun County. He simply was mourning the losses that have come from the change.
Somewhere along the line we are taught that we should only be happy when positive things happen to us. When we have a new baby we are to be elated all the time. When a new and better job comes our way, it’s all balloons and “congratulations!” Weddings are all about celebrating and sending the couple off into their “happily ever after.”
But that’s not real, is it? Even though these are exciting and positive events, they are still changes and with every change comes some kind of loss. The new parents have the joy of a new baby but that baby means the end of their days of spontaneity and a lot of their free time. They can’t decide to walk out the door at a moment’s notice to go to a movie or on a couples’ weekend. Similarly, a new job with better pay also means leaving coworkers and friends, a support network, at the previous job. And all of us who are married know the myth that “happily ever after” means all sunshine and roses. We commit ourselves to one another out of a deep and abiding love, but that commitment includes forever taking someone else’s needs and desires into account. In getting married, we give up the rights to our self-centered impulses that once ruled our lives as single people.
My son was pointing out the obvious: when we gained our new life here, there are opportunities and relationships in our old lives that have been missed, lost, or forever changed. He wasn’t making a condemnation of the new, just recognizing that he misses some of the old.
Too often we don’t allow ourselves time and space to mourn the losses that come with the gain. Somehow we’ve decided that all loss is bad and mourning is a sign of failure. We willfully deny that loss is fundamentally a part of any change, no matter how positive that change may be. We don’t want to admit any sadness in the face of improvement and progress. Celebration is only about joy and happiness.
But that’s not the way of the world. Quite often we are unable to fully engage the elation of positive change because we’re denying all that we’ve lost, even for good reason. There’s no shame in mourning losses, regardless of the nature of the change. I miss things about my former job and our former town. That’s not to say I’m unhappy with where I am now. I love my new church and our new community. But moving here was a change and with that change came the loss of the life we knew.
My son had a simple word for me: that he missed his old life. My Mom Anxiety wanted to jump to the rescue. I wanted to espouse the fabulousness of his new house, new school, new town. I wanted to cover up the sadness and loss because I have bought into the dysfunction that sadness can only mean there's something wrong and that I have to be the one to fix it.
No. He just wanted to tell me that he wished he had gotten to have a play date with one of his friends from preschool before we moved (That brought on the other familiar emotion, Mom Guilt). He was not saying that the many play dates and sleepovers he's had here were not enough or inadequate. He was not saying that he wanted to move back and hated where he is now. He simply was missing one thing, one "could have been" from our old life. That's all.
And that's o.k., healthy even.