Take Things as They Come.

By: Jen Shoop

Two close friends just lost parents, and Mr. Magpie and I spent a lot of time among the grieving over the past weekend. I found myself thinking about how grief is the shape love takes after someone dies, and yet how difficult it is to wrap your head (or heart) around this truth when you’re in its grip. You feel instead an acute loss. The things unsaid, the lasts, the “I can’t believe she won’t be here when…” One of my friend’s aunts said: “Frankly, I’m annoyed at him for dying.” And I thought how real that was, and how brave it was for her to speak so candidly.

As is the way, I have found various poems and quotes filtering through my consciousness and I have been looking at them through the lens of my friends’ losses. Something that might not have struck me as interesting at all a week ago now hangs heavy with insight. Gretel and her breadcrumb trail, etc.

From poet Lao-Tzu, 6th century BC:

All things pass
A sunrise does not last all morning
All things pass
A cloudburst does not last all day
All things pass
Nor a sunset all night
All things pass
What always changes?…

Take things as they come

All things pass

I share this less as a reminder that “this, too, shall pass” in the bigger sense, because maybe we never “get over” the loss of a parent, and that’s OK — but more from a vantage of being receptive to the potent cocktail of emotions that courses through us at a time like this. “Take things as they come.” Feel everything; no feeling is final, or inapt. It seems that we are trained to “recompose ourselves” as quickly as possible after we’ve cried, or to change the subject after we’ve gone on for awhile remembering the dead, but it’s OK to let the sadness hang in the air. There will be days when we feel less tender in the future, but right now, today, we can receive the waves of sadness as they break. And sometimes we feel the opposite, by the way — that we must speak in somber tones, and avoid laughter, and not celebrate the joys that bizarrely tend to coincide with death: babies born, engagements, happy news of happy plans. But it’s OK to feel those things, too. There are no emotional economies that I know of. No pie charts that indicate the total measure of exuberance or grief we can experience at any given moment. Take things as they come.

Two adjacent sentiments that jumped out at me this week:

“I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” – Anne Lamott


“I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.” – John O’Donohue

One last thought that I’m paraphrasing because I can’t remember where I read this: it’s not about getting to the other side; it’s about easing our way across. The visual stirs me: we move at a slower, more graceful pace; we swing one leg over the fence at a time versus javelining ourselves across. Your direction is more important than your speed.

Sending love to all experiencing grief, or its forethought.


+More thoughts on grief.

+Memories of my grandfather.

+Impressions of the lost.

+Six reframes that I routinely lean on.

+Life takes root around the perimeter.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

2 thoughts on “Take Things as They Come.

  1. Lovely and well written, as always. Your final sentiment about easing our way reminded me of a scene I witnessed as a young new graduate nurse working on an oncology floor at the hospital. I had an elderly patient who made the decision to stop treatment and go home with hospice care. When the ambulance service arrived to pick her up she looked to the EMT with sadness in her eyes and said “I want to go home.” He gingerly cupped her hand in his and looked her in the eyes while saying “we’re heading that way.” I once heard the phrase “We are all just walking each other home” and often picture this scene when I think of those words. We’re all walking each other home.

    1. Oh my gosh – this made me teary-eyed. What a spectacular way to frame it. Thank you so much for sharing.


Previous Article

Next Article