early (but not really) grieving

Early grieving = when you’re sad about some way-in-the-future (but-also-inevitable) event. Early grieving is a tiny bit of a problem, because it can interfere with your enjoyment of the here and now.

I can’t say whether or not my friend Tara‘s husband Troy made up this term, but the YouTube video of him singing about Tara early-grieving their daughter Paige leaving the nest for college? One of my favorites ever. I’ve probably watched it 10 times. In fact, I’m going to go watch it again. Hold on.

“… and now someone’s screaming downstairs…” I die.


So grieving. I’m starting to do it. And it’s not really early grieving, because we’re leaving for Cambodia (God willing) in just the tiniest bit over three months.


And we’re moving out of our apartment in two.


I am starting to freak out and get sad and think of all the people I’m going to miss and how permanent this move is and how much I love the people we live with and go to church with and share blood and last names with.

And I want so badly to say good-bye well. And I’m afraid I won’t. That I’ll run out of time. That all the people I love won’t know how much I love them. That they’ll forget us. Or feel forgotten by us.

I want them to know that just because we love Cambodia and feel called there and have longed for this day doesn’t mean that we (I) don’t cry into my pillow sometimes at the thought of being so far away for so long.

My tendency is to disengage and push away and make the leaving “easier” by putting distance between me and other people ahead of time. (and sometimes, I can feel people doing this with us–totally don’t blame them for a second)

So. I’ve been trying to engage. And be present. And be joyful. And give out lots of hugs. And kind words. And just be with people. And slow down time. And yeah.

I’m just asking God to help me say good-bye well. Please, God, help me say good-bye well.

And… cue the tears (mine, not yours). (you’re welcome to cry too if you want though)

Question for you: If someone you loved (friend, family member, whoever) was leaving to go far away for a pretty long time, what could they do that would make you feel loved before they go (and while they’re gone)? 

9 thoughts on “early (but not really) grieving

  1. Pingback: unschooling: road trips | Marla Taviano

  2. Kelly

    A few ideas…
    – write cards/notes to special people and give to them. Including a photo is a nice idea, too. 🙂 I think this provides some “closure.”
    – having a goodbye party with an open invitation (i.e. to everyone on facebook, church, etc.) so that people who WANT to say goodbye can. I don’t think is good as an “only” goodbye for people who are close to you, but it allows people to say goodbye who are looking for some closure.
    – set a deadline for a week or two before you leave as your deadline, so that your final time can be just with close family/friends. depending on your living situation, see if you can change the situation in some way for the final week (I think that makes the deadline more “real”). I like how Tsh went to Texas for 2 weeks before they went to China… that helps make you do the “to-do’s” so that the final time can be just spent with loved ones.
    – I know finances make this tricky, but staying at a hotel for your final night or two could help with that for the same reason.
    – maybe put together a photo book and distribute to loved ones (the same one could be designed with multiple people in mind and printed cheaply off shutterfly, etc.)
    – start doing some stuff that can be continued overseas to show people that life will go on: social media, Skype, etc. if your parents have never skyped with your kids because they live close by or whatever, this would be great to start! Or finding a board game that you play together in person and can also play via an app or Skype or whatever. or starting a private blog or shutterfly page for sharing pictures. or uploading videos of your kids to a private youtube page, or sending care packages/letters via the mail… I think it helps when there are habits already in place that can be continued.
    – I know you are going to Cambodia long-term, but if you possibly have a date in mind that you’ll be returning (i.e. for a relative’s wedding or in two years or whatever) I think that’s nice to share. It makes it less of a goodbye and more of a “see you later.”

    Ultimately, I think we can’t say goodbye perfectly. There is going to be pain involved and it’s going to be sad, and I think perhaps the loved ones in our lives need to deal with their own spiritual “sacrifice” of giving up their kids for the sake of loving the world. But, we can do the best we can to do it in a healthy and kind way. 🙂

  3. Rachelle

    Oh mercy, can I ever relate. When I’ve gone through early grief (thank you Troy for finally giving this thing a name!!). I have sometimes pushed people away in a not-so-nice kind of way, bordering even on being emotionally mean. It’s heart protection at it’s finest, except my heart was still just as broken AND I had to deal with the attitude I’d had. pretty. I love the idea of saying goodbye well. This is something I need to learn. If you find a class on how please sign me up!
    Praying that you continue to love all your people head on, fully immersed with a great measure of grace.

  4. Molly

    Before they left, they could write notes for certain special times and give them to people sealed, with the date to open them on the outside of the envelope. They could even be for times when they miss you very much or cards for birthdays, ect. Random emails and texts after you are there will be special too. Don’t know if you’ll be able to FaceTime any but the would be fantastic.

  5. Jessica

    Don’t worry. Your North Carolina blood relatives know that you love them, even if you don’t get to come visit before you move. Although we hope you can, anyway. 😉

  6. Gaylene Carpenter

    Our son-in-law has been stationed twice for a year each time in Iraq. He would just call at random times just to say hi. The best was when he called me on mother’s day. Never a long conversation, but those few minutes meant the world to us.
    – Dr. G

  7. Claudia

    Just a few words in an email or card…nothing extensive…just a reminder that you still care. BTW, I am excited for you but a bit ticked we won’t meet face to face till you visit Florida when you come back some day! 🙂

  8. Sharon

    I think the biggest thing they could do after they are gone is to make it a priority to stay in touch. I’m gonna guess phone calls from Cambodia to the US are not cheap….so emails/text/skype, whatever works best.

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