Good Grief!Photo by Ashley Cook

Sometimes it’s hard for me to throw away broken things.

This is a bit embarrassing to admit, but maybe you can relate? I always think, maybe there is a little bit more life or maybe there is another use for them. Sometimes it takes me longer than others to arrive at the conclusion that the broken thing must go in the trash can.

This whole thing was triggered when I saw a pair of broken rain boots in the trash. They had belonged to my older son, and I had held on to them for years awaiting the season they would fit my younger son who is much harder on clothing than my older son had been. Thankfully, he has plenty of hand-me-downs to “wear-out”.

I had to stop and contemplate why I was overcome with emotion, when laying there on top of the trash were those yellow rain boots with chunks of navy fabric peeking through where the rubber was missing. Something in me cried out, “No! Say it ain’t so!”

Why had trash roused such a reaction?

When I see those yellow boots, I think of one special day playing in muddy puddles with my only little boy, and the look on his face when the slimy worm wriggled in his hand. I can still hear his perfect little nasally voice shouting excitedly as he danced around shaking his hand to make the sensation stop. I also think of his younger brother who came along shortly after, and isn’t at all afraid of picking up worms, or frogs or any other creature really, as he had done often while also wearing those worn-out boots. Yellow is his favorite color.

Without those boots around to prompt those memories, would they be forgotten? Would they be overshadowed by all the new ones?  That thought made me a little sad.

I know this sounds overly dramatic, but what if I need to grieve the loss of those boots? For some of you, that may sound like an outlandish concept. I get it, I really do! But grief isn’t just for when we lose a loved one. Any time there is a loss of some sort, whether we realize it or not, we may experience a sort of grieving. My grief over the loss of the boots, will not compare to the grief you experienced when you lost your loved one, but it is grief, none the less.

You see, I’ve been so busy surviving some tough battles, that I haven’t taken time to grieve the fact that my imaginative little guy who didn’t like the texture of the worm, is no longer a little guy. He’s a pre-teen! My other two are growing just as quickly, and I haven’t stopped in a while to be intentional about grieving their growth. We’ve definitely celebrated, with cupcakes and ALL the balloons, but my momma heart hasn’t had the chance to contemplate that those babies that once relied on me for everything, have been replaced with independent little humans that act much older than they are.

That used to be what I did each year when I would go through clothes, sorting those that were too tight from those that they could squeeze into a bit longer.  I would look at each article of clothing, remembering the times they played in the creek at the park while wearing these shorts, or the birthday party they attended while wearing this shirt, as tears streamed down my cheeks. It was something I knew was important for me – to allow myself to grieve their growth, because part of cherishing where you are is looking back and letting go of where you’ve been. In order to make room for the new, you have to let go of what was.

Loss is a Fact of Life

Our little homestead has seen the loss of a few of our dearly loved pets over the last several months. God has been showing me the importance of teaching my kids how to properly grieve in this season of loss.

Loss is a fact of life. We are going to lose our favorite sunglasses, our most treasured stuffed animal, or even our beloved pets. Our expensive vase is going to get knocked off and our heirloom is going to be misplaced. Acknowledging the emotions stirred up from these losses no matter how big or small, is part of developing a strong emotional intelligence. Stuffing them down, telling yourself how ridiculous it is to be disappointed that you lost your key chain you got on your honeymoon, is not beneficial for your future self.

Now, I am not saying you should throw yourself a pity party and refuse to wash your face for three days. Nor should you wear black for a week, and have a funeral over these lost items. What I am saying is pause, and acknowledge the emotion. Shed a tear if necessary. Let gratitude arise in your heart for the fulfilled purpose of the item. And then, intentionally say “goodbye”, so to speak.

It’s in the daily grind that we have opportunities to practice healthy emotional responses, so that when we face the larger life events – the life altering ones – we are equipped to do so. If you practice repressing emotions, such as grief, in your day-to-day life, you will develop a habit of doing so, and when it really matters, that habit will not serve you, nor your loved ones, well.

There is a piece of advice I’ve seen on social media, that you may have seen as well, that says, “Do something today that your future self will thank you for.”

Developing healthy emotional habits is definitely something your future self will thank you for. Additionally, so will your children. Be intentional and even if it seems silly, let yourself heal.

Maybe today is the day that you acknowledge that there are some things in your own life you need to grieve? Maybe you need to grieve the loss of a job that you loved? Maybe you need to mourn over how you thought things would be versus how they turned out? Maybe you need to grieve over the old you?

For me, it has much more to do with my babies than it does those boots, but maybe those boots brought me joy? And maybe I do need to grieve the fact that there are no more memories for those worn-out yellow boots to stir-up when I see them covered in mud (and possibly duck poop) under the bench on the front porch?

So……TO THOSE WORN-OUT YELLOW BOOTS…. Thank you for serving my family well! You will be missed.