It’s 9/14, and the rest of the Corps is gone. Jenna and I are the only Corps members who have stayed on Neighbor to Neighbor and she is working remotely out of Vermont. Jill led a grieving exercise with us a little over a month ago before everyone left to help us transition into the next part of our lives. I think it’s pretty clear I fall under, “Let’s hang on!” Here are the other styles people may express as they cope with loss:
Let’s Get Angry!
This is the person who finds that it is easier to leave a place that I don’t really want to be anyway. By picking a fight or expressing anger, the individual buys time to not deal with all the other emotions she may be dealing with (sadness, regret, frustration, anxiety, fear, etc.). Anger functions well as a cover-up emotion and enables the distancing to occur emotionally even before the physical ‘end’ and distancing comes. (The key here is to try and encourage yourself to get in touch with your feelings and to comment that you notice a change)
Let’s Hang On!
This is the person who basically decides that if she hangs on, she won’t really be leaving. She may talk about coming back after the year of service is over, working at the placement site, visiting, etc. (Staying in touch is OK, but it would be good for you to find a way to really mark the “end” of your service. A clean break makes it easier to transform your relationship).
Hold Back the Clock!
This is the person who basically decides that if she does everything she can possibly before the end of the year, she will feel like she has more time than she actually has. In opposition to the angry person who tries to distance herself, the clock person tries to immerse herself more deeply. She is often driven by a fear of regret (e.g. I didn’t do everything I wanted to do) and uses her higher level of activity to keep her busy enough to assist in not coping with the coming transition. (If this is you, SLOW DOWN! Try and articulate your accomplishments AND ask others to share the impact you have made (e.g., from staff or those you have served).
Let’s Just Sit and Wait!
Others will simply detach themselves completely. If she were an image on the TV screen, she would be the person who simply fades out slowly. She may become less motivated at work (and at home) and just slowly detach, bit-by-bit, piece-by-piece, so that when the “end” comes, there’s so little of her present, there’s not much to take away. (Don’t fade away! Try to think of ways to ‘leave a mark’ on the placement).
Let’s Look Ahead!
This is the grass will get greener person. She copes with the pain and loss of transition by focusing on what she will be gaining in the ‘what’s next’ of her journey. She begins to live in the future to avoid the present. Again, this is the story of early detachment, which may show itself in many different types of behaviors. Encouraging the future person to stay in the present is always helpful. (Try and plan special events/activities to make the present more palpable and enjoyable. Remember, the past is history, the future is mystery, the now is gift, that’s why they call it the present).
What’s the big deal?
This is the person who simply does not see the transition as significant. This person will probably challenge the need for closing dinners, ceremonies, and too much attention to the matter. They see the end as just another day, and another time. Often, these individuals will have a delayed reaction-their goodbye process will not even begin until after they are gone. (Remember, different strokes for different folks! When the process begins for you, you will be able to draw from what you saw in others).