Grieve the Important Things, Even If They Are Only Important to You

2020 is largely a dumpster fire. There are plenty of things that I’m still grateful for – the best parents and brother, Eli, Hirt baby, Ollie, my savings account, evenings on the balcony, etc – but I really believe the year in its entirety is the root cause of my shingles. This year has robbed so many of so much. For some, it’s stolen life and left families shattered and hurting. For others, it’s stolen livelihood and health insurance and a sense of security. And for most, it’s stolen community by way of canceled social gatherings and the inability to be near many of the people we love most. I’m so thankful now to be in Portland with Eli because those first couple months of quarantine living alone on the opposite side of town from my friends were extremely lonely. And still I crave time with my loved ones, but at least we have Facetime. Not sure what I’d do without that.

With all of this loss and change, we need to allow ourselves the space to grieve. Because that’s exactly what this year requires: Grief! We’re supposed to grieve things we’ve lost. It’s okay to grieve a postponed wedding. It’s okay to grieve a canceled 30th birthday party. It’s okay to grieve the loss of social gatherings and face-to-face connection. It’s okay to grieve the loss of the life you had 3/4 months ago. One thing we should not do is throw ourselves constant pity parties or lose sight of the fact that everyone is being affected. It’s not just you. But complaining sometimes to your boyfriend or girlfriend or bff who will let you vent without judgement? Do that. Making a list of all the things you miss and that you won’t take for granted when you get it all back? Mhm, yes. Feeling sorry for yourself here and there? Do that, too. Does it seem a little superficial yet you’re still bummed about it? FINE. Feel it. Give yourself permission to grieve because once you feel empowered to feel the shitty things, you’ll feel even more empowered to feel the really good things.

Before moving on, I want to make something very clear. This is specifically about grieving things we’ve lost that we will get back. This is not about grieving the death of a loved one. If you know me or have read other things I’ve written, you know that I understand the distinction. Grieving plans is not the same as grieving a person. Don’t get it twisted.

Okay, I’ll start! One thing that I’m grieving is the loss of international travel. I’ve gone to Germany almost yearly since I was born, except for a couple years when I was young and my grandparents could still fly to visit us. This is the first year in as long as I can remember that I will most likely not be going to Germany, and I’m grieving it big time. The inability to visit my 91-year-old Oma makes me so sad. She’s currently in a rehab facility after falling and breaking her arm and pelvis a couple months ago, and it sucks that I can’t go over to give her some company once she’s back home. Technically with my German passport I can go, but there are quite a few probable bad scenarios that I would rather avoid. For example, catching and giving my Oma COVID, aka my worst nightmare.

Oma love aside, traveling is a huge part of who I am and I am bummed as hell that I can’t leave the country this year. Experiencing the magic and discomfort of being somewhere new has helped shape me. To lift my own spirits, I’ve been looking through travel photos from the last few years and thought I would share some here in no particular order. Please note that these aren’t necessarily the *best* pictures, but I like them. It’s always hard choosing favorites, so I’m just choosing three for each location, more or less at random.

I’m very aware that this is a privileged thing to grieve. Not being able to travel is not the worst thing in the world – I know this. But as I said, you have to give yourself permission to grieve the loss of important things, even if they are only important to you.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2017)

Mama enjoying a Heinekin on our Airbnb balcony.
House boat heaven.
Vespa, anyone?

Mexico City, Mexico (2019)

Hostel rooftop view.
Frida Kahlo’s house.
Elote in Coyoacán.

Limón Province, Costa Rica (2018)

Playa Manzanillo, taken by Eli Stillman.
Somewhere along the road in Cocles, taken by Eli Stillman.
Jungle hostel in Puerto Viejo.

Uppsala, Sweden (2019)

Strolling downtown Uppsala.
Enjoying field games and the company of new friends.
Lunch on the river.

Stockholm, Sweden (2019)

Sigrid & Erik, my gracious hosts and friends.
Stockholm at dusk.
Emily & Jasper!

Sámara, Guanacaste, Costa Rica (2017)

Chasing sunsets, Playa Buena Vista.
Soda La Perla, Sámara’s best soda.
A traumatizing swim to and from Isla Chora.

Quetzaltenango (Xela), Guatemala (2018)

Hilltop slides with mi canchita Ally.
Sunday hiking with old and new friends.
Street food stop, Parque Centro América.

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua (2018)

View from Sigrid & Erik’s hostel.
Exploring town.
Good colors.

Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico (2019)

El rancho.
Little chihuahua, big world.
Marcela, my soul sister/tour guide.

Potrero, Guanacaste, Costa Rica (2018)

Nightly sunset beers with Marcela, Playa Potrero.
Ladies Night at Las Brisas.
La familia.

Stuttgart, Germany

Dinner at Kickers with Mama, Oma, and Opa, April 2017.
Enjoying an Aperol Spritz (or two) with Tante Bo, August 2019.
Schlossplatz, April 2017.

If you’ve made it all the way to the bottom here, thank you!! Looking at other people’s travel photos isn’t the most thrilling, so I appreciate you. I hope you can create space to grieve the things you’ve lost and find new things to enjoy this year. And I also hope that you use this as a reminder to be kind to the folks you’re interacting with on the day-to-day because odds are, they’re grieving the loss of something also. Compassion (and masks!!!) will go a long way. ♥

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