Sometimes the best way to open our eyes to what we have is to let ourselves grieve for what we’ve lost.

rediscovering summer

The last time I fell in love we were laying underneath the stars. The stars were on the ceiling of my bedroom, projected by a laser light machine I got for $15 back when I worked at Gaiam. And they were green. But it didn’t matter to me at that moment.


She broke a whole slew of the dating rules I’d made for myself: she was too young, she didn’t know what she wanted, she showed up at a time when I’d promised myself I’d stay single, and she lived several states away. But that didn’t matter to me at the moment.

I’ve made many mistakes in my life. But falling in love with her wasn’t one of them. Or maybe that was a mistake, but that error filled my spring and summer with excitement, with challenge, with a chance to grow.

Those events and people in our lives who trigger our unresolved issues could be regarded as good newsPema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

Last night, I watched (500) Days of Summer. I’d been putting it off because I instinctively knew it’d remind me of my own summer, and in that respect, the movie didn’t disappoint. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the movie, loved the soundtrack and laughed more than I have in a while – and let myself look back upon the past six months of my own life, all the good and all the bad.

Since she left (and the unhappy circumstances that surrounded it, created mainly by mistakes of my own making), I’d been curiously serene. Maybe the quiet of my home in contrast to the past several months contributed to that. Or perhaps – as I tend to do – I hadn’t given myself the chance to let go of the past. I tend to hope for the best, or what I think is the best, and sometimes let my hope get in the way of moving on.

Yesterday, I walked out of the movie theatre. Instead of heading straight for the bus and home, I looked out to the east, across the plains, to the evening-tinged clouds on the horizon. And then I walked past a reggae band playing No Woman, No Cry. And I sat to watch the sun setting over the Flatirons.

I smiled. I actually felt all the wonder, all the gifts I’m given each day – my friends, my memories, my moments, my challenges and my lessons.

But this didn’t happen just because of some movie. On Friday, I started to allowed myself to mourn for what happened, to feel sad for endings.


I realized that the process of grieving isn’t about feeling sorry for ourselves; it isn’t about holding onto the past.

Grieving is about acknowledging this moment. Grieving is about appreciating the treasures we’ve had, and it allows us to move away from needful attachment to what’s gone, toward clear awareness and acceptance of the moment we’re experiencing right now.

And in doing so, we begin to dismantle the filters and misconceptions that we use to colour our memories in service of our feelings. We begin to admit where we were wrong, and feel more fully the good things. We understand more honestly both the good moments and the bad moments, and we begin to see a wiser, more compassionate path forward in our lives.

We don’t grieve for people or events or things that mean nothing to us, that never gave us joy or happiness. We grieve for the good that we’ve lost, and so we come to know which moments we’ll remember fondly.

Does it mean I don’t have hopes and dreams involving those in my past? Of course not. But without the distortion caused by unmourned losses, even our hopes and dreams find a calm, stable place to exist. They cease to be needs or fervent desires. They feel more sane, more real, and fit the reality of our situations, rather than try to fit situations into our fantasies.

Sometimes the best way to open our eyes to what we have is to let ourselves grieve for what we’ve lost.

Mila (Jacob Stetser)

Mila is a writer, photographer, poet & technologist.

He shares here his thoughts on Buddhism, living compassionately, social media, building community,
& anything else that interests him.

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  1. I think I could have written this. I saw the movie last night, too, and had a similar moment as I was leaving the theatre. It got out just as the sun was setting, and there was these amazing clouds—so I stood at the bus stop and snapped a quick picture (since my bus was barreling toward me). And I just sort of appreciated all of it…not good, not bad…just what it is.

    I’m going to write more about it, but had to comment. Beautifully written, Jake.