There’s something about the idea of “letting go.”

People often say things to those who mourn gauging somehow for them whether or not they are progressing after their major life loss. They say things that reflect their own measuring of the speed they perceive someone should be moving forward or letting go. As in,

Have you let this go yet? Or

You should be letting this go. Or

Haven’t you let him/her go? Or

I can’t believe you aren’t beyond this yet. Or

As one woman who is a life coach in our community said to me, “you should have let this go by now,”

Inside myself I have a hard time with language like this. The language of letting go or finding closure or moving on. The implication being that somehow your loss, whatever shape it may be, just needs to be “over with.”

At the same time, the season of autumn is arriving and on its heels messages of letting go. Productivity is slipping away with the arrival of cooler weather. Tomato plants, as I pick the last fruits, rustle and crackle with dryness. The leaves and stems seem to have lost their juicy fullness. Are diminished. And the four eggplants bend under the weight of their production… even as they bloom they seem to be finishing at the same time. Flowerbeds too are drying and wilting and sending out pink autumn blooms as dried leaves fall from nearby trees and catch on all the growth, life and death happening all at once.

Everywhere I look I see things happening. Something that looks a bit like letting go. Or maybe like surrender. Less striving, a soft, slow decline arriving in the place of productivity; an unfolding or unraveling. The abundance of August and September giving way, relinquishing to the arrival of less.

What if we took our cues about grief from nature? What if nature has a story within it about just how we should handle decline, loss and mourning?

Although nature may look sometimes like something vibrantly rapid, it really is more like something that happens gradually. Just as fall arrives with gradually shortening days and spring comes on the heels of warming temperatures and tiny new growth, our grief can feel as if it has both qualities. As if something is gradually happening and is suddenly arriving too. That rather than being a single thing with some pre-determined time limit… grief and mourning or more of a process.

What if, when we know someone is mourning a significant loss, we asked questions like:

How is your grief unfolding for you? OR

What is your grief teaching you today? OR

If you used words to describe your mourning process… what would they be?

If we could stay curious with one another after significant life losses, without measurement or judging, or somehow telling one another that we need to move on or let go, what would happen? Would we find something kinder, more gradual? Could we find another way to explore the ongoing and changing nature of experiencing a loss?