Thursday Thread, DIRTY WORDS Edition: MOURN


Often a grim word, but it doesn’t always have to be.

As coaches, we’ve found ourselves using this world A LOT recently with clients. And, if we’re being honest, with ourselves as well. (More on that below)

Most of us probably have a visceral reaction to the word mourn. We may associate it with a sad moment in our lives. Rarely does it have any sort of positive connotation.

But why is it such a grim word? And how can we rethink it?

According to Oxford Dictionary, ‘mourn’ is to feel regret or sadness. And rarely do we want to sit with regret or sadness.

Have you ever had a long-awaited, highly anticipated change, only to feel a bit of sadness once it happens?

Like when we’ve accepted a new job offer at a new company with an amazing new promotion, new title, and new pay… and yet, we still feel sad about leaving our old coworkers. Or when we’re vying for a promotion, get it, and feel saddened about the dynamic shifts with our peers who will become direct reports. Or we move to a new city we’ve been wanting to live in forever, but still miss our home and the comforts of what we’ve always known. 

And then we’re confused when we’re sad and upset with ourselves for missing something even though we wanted the change – even fought for the change. “Why am I anything but happy in this situation?! I wanted this,” we might think to ourselves.

Confusing, isn’t it? And yet, we’ve pretty much all felt it.

With welcomed changes, we’re so conditioned to focus on only the future – “the good” – that we don’t pay our respects to the past.

But two (or more) feelings can co-exist. You can be excited (about the future) and sad (about what’s gone).

Because a change is just that: a change. No matter how big or small – change evoke emotions. And we’re not suggesting that you minimize the sadness. We’re suggesting you pay attention to it – name it, honor it, question it and then move through it.

Consider what this looked like when we were forced to move to a virtual world. Even if working from home is an ideal scenario for you, we had to mourn the days in the office. Some of us missed that alone time during the morning commute, the separation of work and home, or the run-ins and random chats at the coffee station. It’s why we had to find ways to fill those voids. We had to find a new way to unwind alone, separate office spaces from living spaces and schedule virtual coffee dates.  We found ways to fill those voids once we recognized them as voids.

When you pay attention to what it is that’s evoking that sadness, you can be intentional about what it is you want to bring forward into the change. So, mourn it. Mourn the good changes just like you give yourself space and grace to mourn the not-so-good or uninvited changes.

We want you to mourn so you can finish and close the book with excitement. Not so you can put it away and have it collect dust on the shelf, but so you can write the new one with intention.

Pay attention to when and where you’re seeking familiarity. What you’re nostalgic about can tell you a lot about what you might want to introduce in the future.

Or, with any upcoming (or past) change, consider working through these statements:

  • I’m grateful for (insert scenario) because: Write down what you’ll miss here – anything goes!
  • Moving forward, I want to be intentional about: Make note of what you want to implement in the future, where possible.
  • With (insert scenario) in the past, I want to make sure I am leaving behind: If applicable, write down what can be left in the past (consider: boundaries, relationships, etc.).

[Shereen’s mourning example]

My most notable recent change was leaving my full-time job in November. Even though it was a choice I made, and I got to embark on what’s been the best adventure of my career yet, there are things I knew I’d miss, wouldn’t mind leaving behind, and wanted to be intentional about bringing forward.

  • I’m grateful for that because: I met amazing people and learned more than I could have imagined. There’s something special about having ‘work friends’ that understand your day-to-day, the culture/politics, and the challenging discussions. I’ll miss ideating in big groups, impromptu lunch dates, and coffee chats. I’m not sure if or when I’ll have that again.
  • Moving forward, I want to be intentional about: Collaborating with people, finding thought-partners, and maintaining the social element. I want to find a community in whatever new way that means for me.

[Lindsey’s mourning example]

I’m mourning the move to a new city. Even though this move brought me closer to family for the first time in 20 years and gave us much needed warmth and outdoor space, it also means I left the support system I’ve known and loved for many years.

  • I’m grateful for that because: I met friends who became family – who have celebrated just about every major life moment I’ve had – I mean, who else has people in their lives who jump into an Uber at 1am to stay with your dog while you go have a baby?! I worked so hard to build a network of brilliant and wonderful people while I was at Northwestern and I am terrified to be so physically separated from it all now. I’ll miss the ease of walking everywhere, exploring a major city and grabbing an impromptu drink or meal with friends simply because we can.
  • Moving forward, I want to be intentional about: Choosing a few groups and/or organizations to get involved and networked with – from a new church, to a veterans group and women-owned business groups – I want to build another supportive group of humans, while always keeping a room open for visitors!

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