September 18


On Grief: loose ends and closing chapters

By Jessica Allen

September 18, 2020

It takes time to tie the loose ends of grief. I am no stranger to this fact but I don't have to like it.

A wise woman said to me today: you know you’re grieving, right?

I responded not-as-wisely: I KNOW AND IT SUCKS AND I HATE IT. (as I cried into a cup of coffee and wiped my nose with the hem of my shirt).

Closing chapters is griefy for me.  I think it’s griefy for everybody, actually. But there’s something about my personal wiring and my own precarious peace-treaty with death that makes chapter-closing especially hard.  

It’s not that I’m afraid.  I’ve done enough searching on this to know it’s not fear that holds me back.  

Rather, it’s hard for me to understand how to hold dearly to what was while moving through what is and marching bravely into what is still to come.

What was is miraculous and beautiful. No amount of what happened next or what is now or what is still to come can change the significance or weight or dearness that what was means to me. With its living fibers woven into my mind and heart, what was is such an integral part of me that I can’t ignore it. Because minimizing or negating it would be severing myself from myself. I can’t unlive my life, or unform a friendship, or unbecome who I am, or unknow what I know to be true. I can’t pretend it didn’t happen, or that it wasn’t impactful, or that its loss doesn’t sometimes make me twinge in sadness.

But when I hold onto what was without putting it into proper perspective, it’s difficult to be present for what is and absolutely impossible to move forward into what is still to come. Too many loose ends trip me up and snare my steps.

I don’t have any answers for this one, other than continued work and prayer. But if you’re a holder-onner like me, know that your messy loose ends are worth exploring. Not all of them will get tied, and we all have to get okay with that. Others of them will get tied in ways that bring peaceful closure, which is a gift. And still more of them will get tied in ways that hurt you or the people you care about, because life is messy, and the only person you can control is yourself. (Even that is a toss-up sometimes.)

We each get to choose which ends we tie up. It’s the only way we can successfully close chapters.

Even at that, you can see that the not-so-subtle imagery here suggests I’m not even going to commit to closing a whole book. I am willing, however, to entertain the idea of turning one page to close a chapter.  Today I’m willing, anyway. Ask me tomorrow and you might get a different answer.

Are you a cutter-offer, or a holder-onner? What helps you tie up your loose ends and close chapters?



I can honor what was while being present for what is and marching forward into what is still to come | black script on white background | loose ends of grief

Jessica Allen

About the author

Jessica is a writer, musician, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. Jessica's mission is to write "real" - shining light into the dark places of the tough stuff we all experience. She and her husband Jack live in Houston, Texas and have weathered the storms of grief, infant loss, adoption, and a marriage that almost fell apart. Jessica and Jack have four children: LJ in heaven, Grace, Jackson, and Elisha.

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