3 Things I’ve Learned Since Leaving Home: Part 2

I wrote Part 1 six weeks after we moved; you can read that post here.

Six months ago, my sister and I left our home in Nicaragua and moved 4,000 miles away.

The decision to move was a sudden one, and in many ways the first few months felt like a whirlwind of changes to process and decisions to make and complicated emotions that I couldn’t even articulate at the time. For the first month or two, I was just trying to get from one day to the next. One month after we moved, I wrote,

my “plan” is basically to put one foot in front of the other—and repeat.

As of Friday, it’s been six months since we moved. The chaos of the transition period has subsided, and we’ve started to build a new version of “normal” for our lives. Today, I’m reflecting on three things I’ve learned since leaving home.

1. Grief is not linear.

I thought the hardest part of leaving home would be the first few months. I imagined that I’d feel more positive after six months than I did after the first month, that things would gradually get easier.

I was wrong.

It turns out that grief is not an orderly progression from pain to healing. Over the last six months, I’ve had good days and bad days. Sometimes I feel fine, like I’ve finally accepted what happened and moved on—and then the next day I’m crying in the shower because I miss my life the way it was, the way it can never be again.

The hardest thing is not knowing when it’s going to end. When I cut my fingers, I knew that they would heal a little more every day. Every day I had a little more mobility than the day before, a little less pain. Every day was a little better than the day before.

Grief isn’t like that. It’s messy and complicated, and sometimes it feels like for every step forward I take three steps back. And it would be really easy to be discouraged by that, to despair that I’ll ever get better—but that leads me to the second lesson I’ve learned.

2. It’s okay to not be okay.

I think a lot of us feel like we have to have it all together all the time—like we have to have even the most painful of emotions “under control.” And when we can’t—when it still hurts and it’s still hard no matter what we do—we feel guilty, like we’ve somehow failed.

I can’t even count how many times over the last six months I’ve been hurting but have told myself, “Pull yourself together.” I’ve felt almost ashamed of my grief, and I’ve wondered if there’s something wrong with me to still be struggling after all this time.

But moving is hard, and moving suddenly—especially under the circumstances I experienced—is even harder. It’s okay to not have it all together. It’s okay to have hard days, days when I just wish I could go home and it kills me that I can’t. It’s okay to not be okay. And giving myself permission to not have to be okay all the time has given me the space I need to heal.

3. Little things matter.

When you’re thinking about big things, like where to live and what job to get and how to process a major transition, it’s easy to think that little things don’t matter. By comparison, whether or not I have a cup of tea today feels irrelevant. After all, I have more important things to think about—right?

But it is the little things that comfort us, that give us a break from wrestling with big, important topics and allow us to just be for a moment. And when it seems like everything’s falling apart, finding order and success in small matters gives us hope that, someday, the rest of our lives will straighten out as well.

One of my little things is keeping our dining room table clutter-free. Even if I feel like I’m drowning under all the to-dos and expectations, having just one small area of my life that’s going well makes me feel hopeful that, eventually, the rest will follow suit as well.

In the last six months, I’ve had to learn to be gentle with myself—to allow myself to grieve and to have bad days, yet at the same time to take small steps to make all of it just a little easier to deal with.

I don’t know how long this stage of my life will last, but I’m learning to be okay with that. I’m learning to look forward to a time when I won’t feel so overwhelmed by life while still accepting that this is just the way things are right now.

Someday, it’ll get easier. But for now, it’s okay to struggle. It’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay if clearing off my dining room table feels like the most I can manage today.

I might not be “fine”—but I’m okay. And for now, that’s enough.

What have you learned from the hard times in your life? I’d love to hear your insights and experiences in the comments!

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