Jan 11

Grieving the Death of our Dreams for our Children

“Nothing dies slower or more painfully than a dream.  How true.  How sadly true.”

Melody Beattie, in Codependent No More

In the movie, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, a young couple, Cindy and Jim Green, discover that they will not be able to have children of their own, as they had so long wished to do.  Devastated, and as a way to bring closure to the dream that they’d had for so long, they wrote their ‘perfect’ child’s characteristics, personality traits, and accomplishments on slips of paper, put them in a box, and buried the box in their garden.  They had dealt with their grief in a way that served them best, and then were ready to ‘move on’.  After that, something miraculous and unexpected happened.


See the movie trailer:  http://disney.go.com/the-odd-life-of-timothy-green/

Like Cindy and Jim, before the first time we ever laid eyes on our children, we developed lots of hopes, dreams, and aspirations about their lives.  We set high expectations about who they would become, how successful they might be, and how closely we would grow together.  This is natural, everyone does it.  And nowhere in these dreams was there a place for treatment of any kind, for any reason.  This was simply not what we had in mind, in any way, shape, or form.

Yet here we are, very much in treatment, and very much living what we never imagined would ever happen.  And it has messed with those hopes and dreams, in a very, very big way.   Though no physical death has occurred, there is still very much a sense of loss that is deep and very very real.  The loss of what might have been, the loss of the vision of what our lives, their lives, were going to be like.

Grief and loss is different for everyone.  Some are able to get past it fairly quickly.  For other it feels like a knife through the heart for a very long time, while most of us probably fall somewhere in between.  There is no right or wrong way or duration.  Elisabeth Kubler-Ross & David Kessler in On Grief and Grieving outline the 5 stages of grief:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.   A person’s duration of time in each stage may range from a moment to months or years.  However it is important not to get ‘stuck’ in any one stage, and thus never complete the process.

Unfortunately, our present day society for the most part does not acknowledge grief and therefore does nothing to foster the grieving process.  The world seems to tell us, “Get over it, stuff those feelings deep, and get on with business as usual”.  Yet experts tell us that unresolved grief can plague us indefinitely, and is extremely unhealthy.

It is for this reason that I invite you to acknowledge your loss, whatever it is, and make sure you grieve it as needed.  In a world that may not acknowledge your pain, there are still ways to journey meaningfully through it.  There are grief therapists and coaches, clergy, self-help books, support groups, friends, and family, who may be able to support you.  I encourage you to contemplate what you need, explore how best to get it, and take action for your own sake if you need to.

My wish for you is full and complete grieving, however that looks for you, no matter how long it takes.  Whether you seek professional help, read books, write a journal, or bury symbols of what you’ve lost in a box in your garden, please take the time to do what is right for you, in your way, on your own time.  And once you are able to let go and move on, like Cindy and Jim, your own unexpected miracle will happen.


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  1. Cathy Taughinbaugh

    Hi Leslie,

    Great advice to acknowledge your loss and grieve through it. Sometimes we want to bury it and hope that our feeling will go away. Seeking support through the journey can make all the difference. Thanks for sharing and hope you are having a good 2013.

  2. Alexandra McAllister

    Great post, Leslie! I also believe that we must grieve our loss, no matter what it is. If help is required, then so be it. Support is necessary often yet many do not seek it. Thanks so much for sharing. Bless you!

  3. Sherie

    Yes, there are many ways to journey through grief. Great advice to seek support and to acknowledge that loss. Such a needed post…

  4. Meryl Hershey Beck

    Sometimes doing nothing at all is the “right thing”. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Tom H

    Great post Leslie,
    Thanks for sharing this post.Loss like any other change has to be embraced before it is let go.

  6. Moira Hutchison

    Excellent post Leslie… I completely agree that a loss of any kind must be appropriately mourned. The grieving process is an amazingly healing process and need to be given space and honor. When things are *stuffed down* they will only re-surface sometime in the future.

  7. Daniele Holmberg

    You bring up a great point! The grieving process is truly important in order to move forward!

  8. Lisa Frederiksen - BreakingTheCycles.com

    Beautiful post, Leslie, and it brings addiction, substance abuse and treatment to light as “things” that are real, devastating and so necessary to be processed and grieved if one is to move on. And as you write, moving on may even result in an unexpected miracle. Thank you for this…

  9. Explode Your Business Online @Norma Doiron

    Great advice Leslie, we need to acknowledge our grief, find a way to deal with it and let it go, in order to move forward. When one door closes there is always another one waiting for us….

  10. Sharon O'Day

    My parents died within a year of one another, when I was 21 and 22. I had already gone through some traumas and had handled them by stuffing the emotions “in a closet” and keeping on with life. So I did the same with the pain caused by the loss of my parents. That means I never grieved. It took decades before I was willing to open that bulging closet. And lots of work to sort out all the emotions, acknowledging some, revising others and … ultimately … go through Kubler-Ross’s 5 phases of grief. Very satisfying on this side of the work, but at times it was really tough. It would have been far easier to grieve each event within the normal time frame, but who knew?

  11. Helena Bowers

    Grief is one of those things that you have to go through before you can truly heal and move on. It’s shameful really that we don’t allow people the time and space to grieve in their own way.

  12. peach

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  13. Joline Vonallmen

    Hi! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this post to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

    1. Leslie Ferris

      Joline, thanks! Yes please forward to whoever you think would be interested. So glad it resonated with you. I see many of my clients struggling mightily with this issue, so that is what inspired me to write it – plus seeing the move of course!

  14. Leslie Ferris

    Dear Adrift at Sea – so glad you found this post on grief useful and relevant to your situation. Stop by any time!

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