Grieving for the present: letting go before moving on

  • Someday Lesson: Even when we’re excited about the future, we often need to grieve for what we’re giving up in the moment.

Back in May 2006 when I made the decision to sell my house and move to France, I was on top of the world. I was following my dream. Life couldn’t be better!

Then as I was going through old papers and came across my first house insurance application—and I burst into tears. Wracking, sobbing tears.

So why would an insurance application send me into hysterics? Because I had a belief that being an adult meant owning a home, being married and having kids. The home was the only one of the three things I possessed and here I was giving it up. That meant giving up being adult.

The tears signaled giving up one set of beliefs and creating new ones. Once I recognized this, the tears dried up and I got excited about the move once more.

I asked Carrie what fears about leaving Atlanta beyond she had and here’s what she told me:

Now that the Morocco move is a reality, the sadness has started. The part of the process where I desperately romanticize every part of my life here in Atlanta and stop remembering why in the hell I would ever choose to move so far away from my friends and my family. After the past 7 years of my friends and family listening to me moan about not wanting to live here, let’s just say that I have experienced many the eye roll over this.

I will be leaving behind a very developed social support network of friends and family that have stood by me, applauded me, calmed me, and loved me into the adult I am now.

I will also be leaving behind what I like to call “the native advantage”. When I lived in France I always envied the natives, the ones that grew up there and lunched with their parents on Sundays, knew every alley way by heart and not only knew the latest slang but seemed to invent it, the natives. I am one of those here. I believe it is a privilege to love where you are from. And I have become very successful here. I will be leaving my city and therefore a very special part of my heart will suffer when it is away.

By consciously thinking about what she’s leaving behind, Carrie can soothe fears as they come up, instead of acting impulsively, and maybe sabotaging her dreams.

Your turn—if you’ve ever made a major shift in your life, what beliefs created fear and tempted you to stop the change before it happened?

Tagged , , ,

21 thoughts on “Grieving for the present: letting go before moving on

  1. Brett Legree says:

    Interesting food for thought. I’ve never really had a problem leaving a place, even a house or home.

    The way I look at it is that I am making a choice to do it, so that is okay – because there is always the possibility of losing your home anyway, without any say (by fire, for instance).

    That’s why I try not to get too attached to a particular “house”. It doesn’t mean I don’t get cozy or settled, but for me, home is basically where I hang my hat and where my family is.

    When we move from where we are I won’t have any trouble at all handing over the keys…

    Brett Legree´s last blog post..week 6 – final exam.

  2. The most major shift I’ve made in recent memory was to leave my full-time (salaried) job to pursue a freelance writing career.

    The fear set in a few days before I gave my notice — when I received my last steady paycheck.

    Of course, my husband and I had run the numbers a million times, but when suddenly faced with a not-so-steady income, I panicked. Money can be a powerful motivator.

    Luckily, I was able to see beyond the paycheck to all of the benefits of working for myself. And now, more than four years later, I’m so very grateful that I did.

    Rebecca Smith´s last blog post..2009 banished words list

  3. This post really rings a bell with me. As a military family we move often. It gets easier to move each time as you learn what is worth grieving over and what is not. I’ve found that those people who keep in touch with you over the drastic changes are your true friends; the rest were “friends of convenience”.

    Of course the difference with me is that I don’t get to decide where to go and when, it is decided for me. I don’t know what I would do if I had to make the decision myself. Would I even be able to decide for myself?

  4. Friar says:

    I got a PhD in Chemical Engineering, specializing in Pulp and Paper.

    So when I looked for work, Godammit, it HAD to be PhD-related research work in my field. That’s what I studied so hard to get..that’s where I was going to work, come hell or high water.

    Since then, I’m changed careers a few times, and I’m not doing anything even REMOTELY related to my training.

    But it’s not the end of the world. And I’ve become more versatile, I have lots of other job skills now.

    Thank God. I’m no longer typecast as the over-educated over-qualified PhD.

  5. Just like you, I’ve had very set ideas about what constituted being an adult – I was supposed to get a job after university, a proper full time job with “benefits”, and a partner and start having children. Of course, none of that has happened. Right now I’m at this turning point in my life, somewhere between the old way of living, where I took job-like contracts and worked for a bit and then lived on savings, and a new way of living where I start to believe I can be a writer and live on my fiction.

    It means letting go of a lot of things, including a social circle whose ideas about life are completely different (and not compatible) with mine. It means giving up on the life I expected to live, before I can move on and live the life I wanted to live. It’s a very awkward phase, and it’s taking time to get used to it!

    Joely Black (@TheCharmQuark on Twitter)´s last blog post..This is a love letter about something I said but wish I hadn’t

  6. This post is really timely for me. I’m on the cusp of making a big transition in my life and it’s having huge effects on my psyche. Even though I’m excited about the future, my current situation is pretty darn good by most standards. So there is a lot of fear and anxiety bouncing around in my brain.

    For now I’m trying to connect with my positive view of the future, doing a lot of visualization, and doing some EFT to deal with the negative emotions. It’s helping, but still…

    Maria | Never the Same River Twice´s last blog post..Traveling By Your Inner Compass: Plotting Out The First Week

  7. Kelly says:


    Good post and great question.

    Leaving behind things, no problem. People, places? Goodness, I’ve done that so much I have no “place” that I call home.

    But once upon a time, I had a major decision to make, to leave the entire life my daughter and I knew behind.

    It was the right one and anyone in their right mind knew it. Still, it took a long time (after I knew it was the right decision) to do it. Why? The known is a lot more comfortable than the unknown, even when the known is scary.

    “What if the unknown is scarier” blocked me for a very long time. Nothing I was leaving behind was as scary as leaving behind certainty.


    You can specialize in Pulp and Paper? Seriously? *raises one eyebrow*



    Kelly´s last blog post..A Contrarian View of Short-Term Thinking

  8. Friar says:


    Seriosuly. You can. It’s still a PhD in Chemical Engineering. Just that your thesis is just specialized to a very specific area.

    My entire dissertion and four years of my life was devoted towards studying the flotation de-inking process (that’s where they remove the ink from the recycled paper).

    (*banging my head against the desk, remembering how painful the whole expderience was!*)

    Friar´s last blog post..Unhealthy Crap I Love to Eat, but Probably Shouldn’t.

  9. I’ve been browsing around the website for a while, but never commented. I haven’t really made a change that drastic, although I’m thinking about it. The decision to go into personal development was a big shift for me, and I was a little scared that I wouldn’t know enough about the field. The fun part has been learning though, and somehow the whole situation feels right.

    Broderick Allen´s last blog post..One Day I’ll…

  10. Kelly says:


    You had trouble leaving that behind?

    You signed on for that?


    No wonder you have so many other cool interests. To keep from going stir-crazy! 🙂

    Until later,


    Kelly´s last blog post..A Contrarian View of Short-Term Thinking

  11. Friar says:


    And I did it all for $14,000 a year! (Except I had to also pay $4000 a year for tuition). So you really were supposed to only live off $9K.

    And they WOULDN’T let you get a part time job to make ends meet.

    Because you were supposed to spend ALL YOUR TIME working in the lab. They didnt’ want you moonlighting.

    And you got a job deliverign pizzas or something, and they found out, they threatened that they’d deduct the equivalent earnings from your scholarship.

    (Lucky, Mom and Dad helped me out, financially).

    You just gotta LOVE Grad Skule! (Really…!) 😦

    Friar´s last blog post..Unhealthy Crap I Love to Eat, but Probably Shouldn’t.

  12. @Friar: I never knew that you specialized in pulp and paper. I actually had a client a few years back who supplied systems to the pulp and paper industry. We wrote their annual report, so I learned A LOT about the industry — I even toured some of their factories. Funny!

    Rebecca Smith´s last blog post..2009 banished words list

  13. That I was not someone that a man could really and truly love. So, if I left that man I was with, I was committing to a life of solitude. Better to be with someone, even if that person was awful, than to be alone. But in the end, the solitude was forced upon me, and after I grieved (a lot!), I found I greatly enjoyed solitude. I got excited about being single. Then POOF along came the Lion, who really and truly loves me.

    Would I have chosen to face my fears, if it hadn’t been forced upon me? I honestly don’t know.

  14. Brianna says:

    I was an Air Force brat and found myself looking forward to change when it came. And somehow the move always happend at just the right time.

    I like to track my life backwards to see how our moves led me to meet my husband and create the life I have today. Moves bring about clean slates, essentially a life free of mistakes (yet!) and unknown opportunities. They also develop nostalgia for things you didn’r realize were important to you from your past because you took them for granted.

    I’ve been in this place for nearly 5 years now and for the first time have the OPPOSITE problem – I’m worried about how I’ll be staying in one place for so long, since this is a new experience for me (and the longest I’ve ever been anyplace). But I suppose consistency has its own gifts and surprises, too!

    Brianna´s last blog post..Time to Get Organized!

  15. […] A new year signals change for many people and in this heartfelt post, Alex Fayle discusses the need to grieve what we are giving up before letting go and moving on. […]

  16. Oh, Karen was right about this post. I like it a lot. It’s not easy to put parts of ourselves to rest, by some choice, or in some cases not our choice at all. I think you brought a very potent point up here. If we don’t grief a loss, we stay stuck. And that can get in our way. Kind of like a personal feng shui to put a lighter note on it. Without that personal clearing out, where ‘s the room for the next good part?
    Lovely post Alex. Happy New Year.

    Janice Cartier´s last blog post..Exploratory Drawings

  17. Alex, this really spoke to me, but in a different way than the theme you’ve presented here.

    Due to circumstances beyond our control, we were forced to sell our house a few years ago, and I really felt like I would be less of a person if I didn’t own property.

    As it turned out, by removing the pressures of a mortgage and other debt related to owning a home, I was able to take the risk of leaving my job to work in my business full time, one of the best steps I’ve ever taken.

    Janet Barclay´s last blog post..Read Articles? Write Articles? Read This!

  18. Alex Fayle says:

    I thought I’d responded to your comments on this one. How odd. On Monday I’ll take another look and repost my responses (must have closed the tab before the comments were saved).

  19. Alex Fayle says:

    I’m certain when you leave your place, it’ll be to someplace so awesome you’ll be practically running out the door.

    That loss of the steady paycheque is pretty darn scary. I’ve been nearly 6 years without one and although I now teach English, it’s not the same amount each month, nor does it include any benefits. 😉 Yay for having such a supportive husband!

    I think that since you don’t have a choice, it’s much easier not to think about it. Just be prepared for a whole lot of panic when you finally do get to choose. So many options! Eek! 😉

    What do you mean unrelated? Pulp & Paper and the cornerstone for working at the Factory – after all, aren’t there a gajillion reports to be printed and shredded unread? 😉

    Yay to be an un-adult! It’s lots of fun, no?

    Going from good to unknown is pretty scary – good for you for having the support systems in place to ease the transition.

    In my favorite book on the subject “The Comfort Trap” by Judith Sills, she talks about how even pain can get comfortable and no matter how small the platform is, stepping off onto the tightrope of a new adventure makes the platform seem huge!

    Learning more about the field is certainly fun, isn’t it? I love reading blogs and figuring out my own spin on personal development a little more clearly.

    Accepting the fear as the place we need to go is a toughie, but you did it sooooo well! And look at what (who) you ended up with!

    Yes for you constant change is the comfort trap – so perhaps your challenge is to stick with a place instead. I understand that. Now that I’ve done the drop-everything-and-go thing, I want to do it all the time now! 😉

    It’s amazing the number of times I’ve been stuck – even good things – until I’ve acknowledged the loss and suddenly been able to move on.

    Now that I don’t have a home, I’m not sure I want to own another one. I know people who rented the same place for 26 years renting and had so much disposable income! 😉

  20. Alex, I think you meant “Now that I don’t have a house” since I am pretty sure you’re not homeless (It still bothers me when people use those two words interchangeably!) but I know exactly what you mean, especially when I go by a house where they’re having work done on the roof, or some other expensive project with no pleasure attached to it, and I’m glad that’s not me! Or looking at flyers or catalogues, and being able to skip over the entire “home improvement” section…

    Janet Barclay´s last blog post..Social Networking and Productivity

  21. Alex Fayle says:

    Oops – I did mean house. Sometimes now that I spend so much time in my Spanish I forget the nuances of English…

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: