Sometimes grief gets in the way of forward momentum. For instance, I had to give up beekeeping. It was necessary for my health. And, in the sadness, my sister sent me a chicken coop—she knew I wanted to keep chickens in my urban backyard along with bees. She was sad with me and wanted to help me get started. And I was so very interested in keeping them… until spring arrived and with it the availability of chicks around the city. Suddenly keeping chickens was very real.

I found myself reluctant to put the coop together. To begin by buying chicks. Even though this was something I had wanted to do… I almost couldn’t bring myself to do it. Why should I start something like this, I wondered. Wouldn’t it be just one more thing—more animals to take care of? Wouldn’t it be more tasks, responsibilities… more time and energy, one more possibility for disappointment? Wouldn’t there be hassles with it?

My enthusiasm had disappeared. I had no momentum for something I’d been talking about for a couple of years. Both of my sisters have chickens and share hilarious stories about their experiences with them. They both enjoy the bird-brains in their yards, the fresh eggs and the wacky chicken behaviors they see. They talk about their chickens and the things they do. I’ve admired their hens—and watched them with the same sense of humor. And still, I found myself deterred somehow. I couldn’t feel any momentum even though I’d long held the desire.

Then, as I contemplated my dilemma, as I watched my husband enthusiastically support the project by helping me pick chicks, take care of them and assemble the coop, I found myself reflecting on the grief that kept me holding back.

My sense of loss over the bees, over the changes in my body that prevent me from keeping them any longer, had me standing on the sidelines of commitment. I couldn’t bring myself to look forward to trying something new when I’d already invested so much in learning about the bees. In spite of all the stinging experiences, the weight of the hive boxes and the sometimes daunting physical challenge of beekeeping, I still loved it. And I hadn’t gotten to give it up on my own terms.

That’s really the nature of loss though. Losses don’t ever seem to be on our terms. Even when someone we love has been ill for a very long time and we’ve watched their slow decline. Even when the death arrives suddenly on our doorstep—it’s not on our terms. Ever.

Not on my terms

In the case of the bees… I didn’t realize that particular day last July would be my last look into a beehive. Didn’t imagine it would be last venture into the very personal, amazing world of honeybees. I wasn’t considering that I’d never be able to look in on those shimmering, beautiful creatures doing their work to create community and honey all at one time. It would be the last time to take in the crisp, bitter scent of smoke, wax comb and honey. I didn’t know I would no longer be facing the hesitation combined with anticipation; the respectful regard it takes to open the hive every time.

The death of my parents wasn’t on my terms either. In their last days I didn’t say all I could have, didn’t share my thoughts of love or gratitude. Didn’t consider, even in the face of illness, that there wouldn’t be time for that in the end. I didn’t say the things that were the most important at all… I was the one looking the other direction at the wrong moment. I missed it. And, I didn’t agree to it! I was speechless. Tears fell. My heart broke. My mind declared “this isn’t the way it was supposed to be!” I wanted to stomp my feet or dig in my heels or slam some doors. This is not what I planned. Not how I wanted to lose you.

And yet, with the help of my husband, my sisters, friends who listen with their hearts… I’ve managed to take steps forward again. Picking up the threads of my life before my parents were no longer in it, I discovered myself again. And, after the bees, I’ve helped pick out chicks, put the coop together, watched them grow from the swing in the back yard even as I watched the beehives leave on a truck headed for my sister’s farm. Both sorrow and curiosity have buoyed me forward even when I feel the most reluctant about it. Sorrow and curiosity. I learned that I can have both at the same time; full feelings to stay in the moment with. To step into something new even when I don’t fully feel like it. To try again just for today.