This summer, I wrote on my Facebook page, “What once was a lush yard with wooded trees and green lawn, now was a pile of wood chips and dust.” These were words that described a different kind of grief.
My husband and I decided we needed to cut down 1-2 trees that died and could cause potential damage to our roof. But, when we called the Tree Surgeon, we didn’t realize we were in for a much bigger surprise. Our expert analyzed all the trees and determined that many of the root systems were tied together. We could cut down those that needed it right now, but within a short time the others would die also. So we decided to resolve the issue at one time. This meant cutting down 10-12 beautifully matured trees and literally changing the entire yard.
I protested the drastic measures we were taking though I knew it was the best choice.. I couldn’t imagine the view out of my window without all the beautiful green and magnificent fall-colored foliage. When the project was complete, I felt like our yard was hit by a Biblical-type plague. And then I grieved. The yard resembled barren land where locusts feasted on the green trees and foliage and left behind a scattering of wood chips and dust debris.
Grief has many faces. Grief—by definition—is the loss of something once valued. I realize that trees are not people…and this grief cannot be compared to the kind of grief we feel when a loved one has died. But it also reminded me that in our lives we face all kinds of grief…some temporary, some life-changing, and some permanent. Each grief requires a process for healing.
We often forget or ignore the other losses we have grieved. Because death is such a permanent loss, it seems to stand alone in importance and influence in our lives. But if each of us took time to trace our loss histories, we would find that we’ve “survived” other losses that hurt too. We might be surprised at what we’ve endured. Some of these losses may include loss of a job; loss of a valuable item; the ending of a relationship; or the loss of a physical ability such as hearing or mobility. As we go through these kinds of loss, we may not sense that we are grieving because the emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental aspects appear very different than those we experienced when someone loved has died
Fortunately, the loss of trees is a very temporary grief. It doesn’t begin to compare with the many permanent losses we’ve faced in our lives. But every loss is a reminder of “change.” Sometimes change is welcomed, necessary, and invited. Other times, it comes without invitation. When children go to college, parents grieve for their presence and grieve the absence of nurturing. Moving to a new city creates anxiety about many things like a place to live, the location of a church, grocery store—and we grieve for a period of time for the comfortable and the familiar. When elderly parents become dependent and require our assistance, we grieve with them for their once independent lives. Each of these situations involving change leaves behind something that we’ve lost…and we may grieve for what once was.
As humans, we tend to grieve outwardly only for those “big” losses that seem to set us back for a period of time. This becomes a time of transition…and we seek methods to help us move forward. Grief helps us discover what is really important in our lives. Grief demands attention, and we should give it the attention it needs. When we grieve fully, we can expect the shock and numbness and the sad times to dissolve. WE become adjusted to the new “normal” and learn from our experiences.
The smaller losses in our lives pass by pretty quickly and become a vague memory. But in fact, there likely was a period of time when we were saddened by what happened. For example, I accidentally broke a beautiful blown glass dish my son gave me. It was one of the last gifts I received from him before he died. I also remember a beautiful white Samoyed dog that was our friend for years that died suddenly when he was hit by a snowplow. I missed his greeting when we came home, but was able to move forward in a short time. Many years ago, leaving high school and the UW caused a break in many relationships that had developed over the years tied to great memories. Such is the circumstance of losses in our lives that may go unnoticed.
After looking at our yard when it was divested of its trees and lawn, it seemed empty and sad. We quickly began plans to restore some beauty to it. We created new landscaping, planted trees, and re-seeded the barren lawn. Even though this summer has been harsh with its near drought conditions—tender attention to our project created new growth. A new normal began to evolve. The feeling of unwelcomed change began to subside. Now, young trees are growing and flowers are blooming. The spirit of renewal can be felt. We can’t replace what we’ve lost, but we can be grateful that it was only trees—a necessary time of change. But , it also serves as a consistent reminder that every loss deserves attention so we can heal the emotional impact in our lives.
Copyright Nan Zastrow
Updated: July 31, 2013