Judith Viorst in her book Necessary Losses promoted the idea that the first half of life is about acquisition and the second half is about letting go.
Women approaching midlife are smack in the middle of facing life's necessary losses. Beauty fades. Brains fart. Skin slacks. Bodies ache. People leave. Love dies. Careers end. Homes are sold or repossessed.
We weather all the external changes with varying degrees of dignity, angst, strength and even humor. People either worry about us or think we are so strong nothing phases us. But what about the internal struggle from which there is no escape?
Children dream without limits. Adolescents dream without ending. Adults work hard to make their dreams come true. At midlife, we evaluate how closely we are living the life of our dreams.
We explore our dreams of what this stage of life would look like. Perhaps we had dreams of extended family love. We internalized dreams of romantic encounters and happily ever after. Some of us hoped for dreams come true of a 50th wedding anniversary or of being cherished by children and grandchildren. Later on, we held dreams of holding hands in old age or dying at home.
Everybody has dreams of reaching some pinnacle of career success or marital bliss. It is the human condition.
DREAMS DIE HARD
When life hands us a loss, we react in stages of grief first postulated by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, we may deny that it happened, or that it bothers us as much as it does.
We may become angry at the person or thing we think is keeping our dreams from fruition.
At some point we will bargain hoping that 'if only' we get counseling, or get another certification, or lose another 20 pounds then we won't have to face this loss at all.
Finally, when none of that works, we sink into depression and feel the gut-punch that loss delivers, or we cycle back to anger and run it again.
Only after we have travelled the entire circle are we able to accept the loss and begin to build a new normal.
DREAMS NOT DRAMA
Step 1 - Face the facts. Not only have you lost something tangible like a partner, a job or a possession, but you have been sucker-punched by a reality that threatens your basic beliefs about the goodness of God, life, or mankind. Yes it is awful to lose someone you love - whether by death or divorce - but devastating to realize the dream you held so dear to your heart can no longer happen.
Step 2 - Feel the feelings. Emotions are like weather that will pass through eventually if you allow them to. If you try to avoid them, what started out as rain clouds can develop into a life damaging tropical storm.
Step 3 - Focus on the solution. Only after you have faced the facts and felt the feelings can you find the energy to focus on rebuilding a new dream from the ashes of what you hoped would be. Armed with new information about life, yourself, and inner strength (what doesn't kill you makes you stronger) you can dream a new dream and take responsibility for your own happy ending.
Good grief means those dreams don't have to die hard - the losses can be survived and from the ashes new dreams can be birthed. From a place of acceptance you will not carry forward unresolved anger or bitterness. There is peace in facing reality at all costs. Now is the time to take responsibility and craft your own happy ending.
Are you up for the challenge?
Kim Halsey is a human resource professional and executive coach who helps people overcome life damaging habits, restore important relationships, and live their dreams without drama.