I intended to start a series on my transition from my job of 31 years to my new life and new job. I wrote about it a few weeks ago, then couldn’t continue. Mostly because grief hit me hard. You know those commercials where the person is walking under a window and a piano falls out and smashes them flat? Yeah, it hit me like that.
I wasn’t sure what to do, not even sure what was happening. Truthfully, I thought I’d escaped it. I really did. The news of being let go was delivered by my boss in May, I was asked to stay on until the end of August, which got pushed to the end of September, which got pushed to January……only I said no, I couldn’t continue. Off and on I had my small bouts of tears. Then my time was done on September 30.
I was at home with nothing to do. Actually, a dream come true. I’ve always wanted a sabbatical or an extended staycation to clean and do all those things you can’t do because you are either working or on vacation, or recovering from work or vacation! After 3 or 4 days of doing nothing, I dove in. I cleaned and de-cluttered. Marcia Ramsland would have been proud. It took me a full 6 weeks to do this. And I wanted about 2 more weeks. I still have remnants that didn’t get sorted sitting in boxes in my basement.
But vacation rolled around and immediately upon return from vacation I headed to a new job. How great is that, right? A new place of employment, no long job search, not too long between no paycheck to having a paycheck? Or so I thought. Actually, I didn’t want to leave on vacation. First. Time. Ever. I wanted to keep cleaning and decluttering. I guess that whole nesting instinct kicked in. But, we had places to go, people to stay with, and a conference to attend at the end of our vacation.
After we got underway I began to enjoy myself. But more than ever I wanted to come home to no job. You might call me ungrateful, but I desperately needed a sabbatical, and 6 weeks was not long enough. In the work that occupied my life for the past 16 years, I was a teacher, a pastor, a mentor, a spiritual director, a speaker, a content provider, a broadcaster, a producer, a copy writer, a researcher, and a leader. No wonder I was exhausted.
I think I am learning, though, that the grief might not have started for me during the sabbatical time because I needed that time to be a refreshing and recharging time. And grief is anything but refreshing and recharging emotionally, though it can be cathartic. So I started my job and after a month grief took center stage. My co-workers who were also let go, ok, let me name them, Melinda Schmidt and Lori Neff, had experienced the gift of grief much sooner. It’s fascinating how different personalities and circumstances play into all this.
What began to happen at my new place of employment, Northern Seminary, is that I would run into Midday listeners daily and unexpectedly. Melinda, Lori and I have all been thrust into helping others deal with their grief(first through a Facebook firestorm, then through individual private Facebook messages and emails and letters) all while also dealing with our own. Didn’t see that coming. Also didn’t see that hearing wonderful comments from Midday friends would cause the flow of tears to start. I thought I would just feel grateful. Just last week, a listener found me at my new place of employment and wrote me a letter there. I opened it, started reading, and the tears streamed down my face. How could I continue working? Well, I couldn’t for about 20 minutes. I picked up the phone and called Melinda and was deeply grateful that she answered. When she said hello she heard my distress and, of course, the tears flowed even more freely. What a gift to have someone to walk this road with. My heart goes out to all those who have to handle grief alone. Community is critical during a time of grief.
I also realized that grief isn’t just a friend to those who lost the job, or were diagnosed with cancer, or who’s spouse passed away, or whatever the loss, you fill in the blank with your specific grief. I’ve mentioned listeners already, but there are our spouses and our children and our friends. This is all they’ve known us to do and to be. Though employment doesn’t fully define us, some types of employment probably do a bit more than others. Radio Talk Show Host might be one of those.
I don’t think I realized I was staying strong for others. Or even staying strong for myself, so I’ve finally acquiesced and given myself permission to cry and grieve. I’ve also realized that even though I felt it was time for me to move on to something else, when you don’t leave on your own terms there are deeper emotions and issues to deal with. I didn’t believe it was time for Midday Connection to end, just time for me to move on. Still don’t. I’m sad for so many people in the equation. Even co-workers who’ve said, “I think of you everyday and miss you and ask why was this decision made.” We’ll probably never really know why. I can sit here and conjecture all day, but in the end it’s pointless. I just need to grieve. I can’t rush the grief but I must allow it to run it’s course. I have felt God with me and so many others with me as well. I’ve had daily “God sightings” from surprising and unexpected places.
We talked much on Midday Connection about knowing ourselves, and who God designed us to be. I’m getting that opportunity because of this unexpected turn of events. I don’t always like this grief journey, in fact I don’t like it at all. I often feel physically tired, and certainly emotionally tired. And I’m deeply grateful for my husband who doesn’t push me to “get over it.”
I don’t have any great learns to pass on now other than keep crying and don’t squelch the emotions that bubble up. I know one thing for certain and that is how extremely grateful I am for those walking with me in this season. At the least, by reading my story, I hope you are encouraged to keep putting one foot in front of the other if you are in a season of grief. I guess the word season encourages me. You never actually get through grief. It sticks with you for a lifetime, but there is a season where it is more intense. So I do look ahead to a better, kinder, gentler season. May it be springtime soon.