How to grieve a good move

How to grieve a good move

I wrote this a year ago as I was moving across the country. And yet I held it close, because it felt taboo. We’re supposed to get excited about what feels good in our bones, right?

Instead, I felt the Wrong Emotion: grief, layered on expat grief.

I enjoy my new work and neighborhood a great deal. Yet it was a hard move. I share it now because I believe it’s important to Speak What We Feel—Not What We Ought to Say—even in professional and public settings. — 2016


Bart, by nepaliaashish on flickr

As I take the BART the long way around the Bay, I think of what everyone has been saying these last few weeks:

“You must be excited to move to California.”

Tears stream down my face. No, I’m not, I want to reply. I’m sad.

I want to tell them that I’ve been grieving since I got the offer. I’d been making friends and settling in. I’d just started a relationship with a dear one. I’d thought I might settle down–for a while, at least.

Yet I experienced the push-pull of migration: a fitting job lured me, and I was restless, desperate to not just “settle” for the nearest gentleman in a small town, and have his babies.

No, I wanted to say, what I feel now is sadness and fear.

But I put on a smile.

“Yes,” I say, “It’s great. I’m excited. It’s a great opportunity.”


Away from these lovely folks, I remember Marilyn’s advice, when my heart dissolved in tears at her office door. That “joy and grief are intertwined together,” that “opening yourself up to love means opening yourself up to sadness.”

And her other advice to an audience of earnest students: that we don’t always need to be stern with ourselves. That we can circle around what we’re going for in life, without quite knowing what it is.

And that we can hug and comfort ourselves, hands under elbows, gentle with our own souls as with a child.

The move felt right, but it brought sadness.

There’s nothing wrong with being sad, I want to comfort myself, with grieving again and again at life.


I remember reading the book of Proverbs as a child.

And when the author wrote that Wisdom cries out in the streets, I imagined Her actually crying, walking up and down an ordinary city and weeping. I envisioned her seeing hope and famine and fear, the war and death, the wealthy people and the widowers, the lonely folks and newlyweds. And I imagined her weeping.

Wisdom cries out.

It’s okay, I want to whisper to myself. It’s okay to weep a little.


The BART curves on its track, tracing the boats along the Bay and dipping far below the City’s sharp-angled streets. It emerges on the far side, by the shipping cranes of Oakland.

I’m lucky. So privileged.

Yet tears run down my face, reflected in the train window.

Be patient, I whisper to myself. Wait and see. But it’s okay to cry.


  1. Marilyn R. Pukkila

    I’m touched and deeply honored to know that my words spoke to you, that you remembered them, and that they served as solace during an emotional time. YES, we do need to speak what we feel, and not simply what we “ought” to say (and who gets to decide what we “ought” to say, anyway?)

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