rebelling against low expectations

Missing Milestones: Grieving What You Never Had

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June is well underway; graduation parties, proms, grad walks, and ceremonies are all happening around you. For many people, this is exciting and meaningful, a way to mark the beginning of a new chapter in their lives. But for others, this time of year can be hard, because they never got those things.

It makes me think of milestones I passed by with little thought. My family had just moved when I turned sixteen, so I decided to wait a year to get my driver’s license. When I turned seventeen my dad lost his job and we lost our house, so let’s just say I didn’t get my driver’s license then either.

My family was still jobless and living in a friend’s house when I turned eighteen, and we were in the middle of the pandemic. So, my mind overlooked the fact I had just gone from girl to young woman.

I graduated from high school in the spring of 2021. There were no ceremonies or parties that year for anyone. It was the same for those who graduated in 2020. The milestone passed with no markers, no celebrations, and no recognition.

Now, I sit on the floor of my office at work, my gap year drawing to a close, staring down my first year of university and twentieth birthday coming at me like a bullet train, and all I can think is, “How did I get here?”

Not A Big Deal?

We don’t always realize the importance of recognizing milestones. It’s a part of transitioning into the next chapter of life. When we don’t have them, it can feel like being thrown headfirst into something new with no warning.

Recognizing milestones is a part of transitioning into the next chapter of life. When we don’t have them, it can feel like being thrown headfirst into something new with no warning. Click To Tweet

I find myself in a place like that, and sometimes I wonder if I’m being silly. I still turned sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen. I still graduated from high school. I should be ready. But to be perfectly honest, I don’t feel ready.

Maybe you got married while our world was practically shut down. No one could travel to be with you, no one could gather to celebrate. Now you watch friends get married with all their friends and family gathered around with smiling faces. You feel sad and a little jealous. How could this be fair?

Maybe your sibling had a baby. They live far away, and you and your parents didn’t get to see the newest addition to the family until they were almost two years old. But that’s okay, you tell yourself, it’s the time we have now that matters.

Maybe you lost a loved one. You couldn’t travel to say goodbye in person, and you couldn’t gather to mourn at a funeral. They were just gone. You still cry sometimes. You still forget they are gone.

But none of this should be a big deal, right? People chuckle and say, “Just look on the bright side,” or “It could have been much worse,” or “First world problems,” when you bring them up. They are right, aren’t they?

I don’t think so.

Stones of Remembrance

Celebrating milestones is something God commanded the Israelites to do in the Old Testament.

First Samuel 7:12 says, “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer [meaning ‘stone of help’]; for he said, ‘Till now the Lord has helped us.’”

Also, in Joshua 4 when the people of Israel crossed over the Jordan River, Joshua told them to gather twelve large stones and set them up by the river “that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever,” (verse 6-7).

God wants us to remember. He wants us to celebrate. He wants us to mark the impactful events of our lives. He gave the Israelites feasts to celebrate the special times in their lives, including births, coming of age, and weddings.

When we can’t recognize, remember, and celebrate, He grieves with us, because He knows it’s hard.

God wants us to remember. He wants us to celebrate. He wants us to mark the impactful events of our lives. When we can’t recognize, remember, and celebrate, He grieves with us, because He knows it’s hard. Click To Tweet

Allowing Grief

Grief isn’t just for when loved ones die; it’s for any loss. Maybe some losses are cause for more grief than others, but when we don’t allow for the grief when it comes to the little things, it just builds up and eventually you overflow.

One truth we must remember is that everyone grieves about different things in different ways. We can’t make people grieve things they don’t need to, and we also can’t make them move on just because we don’t think it’s worth grieving.

That also goes for yourself. Don’t look at those around you and wonder if there is something wrong with you because you are upset. There isn’t. And don’t try to make yourself move on. We live in a world that doesn’t allow for grief. When a loved one passes away, you only get three days off work… Could you imagine trying to go back to normal life after having only three days to grieve? Most of that time is taken up with funeral preparations.

And there are so many other things to grieve, sometimes they are things no one else even knows about.

Gravestones

As you look around at friends as they graduate, get married, have baby showers, celebrate birthdays, and even have funerals for loved ones, grieve your loss. Celebrate with them but grieve your loss. Because it is a loss; even though it was something you never had, it was something you had been looking forward to, expecting, or always dreamed of.

Don’t discount it.

When you look backward in your life, it’s hard to see missing milestones. It can skew your direction, location, and how far you’ve come. Replace the milestone with a gravestone to mark your path and just keep walking forward, one step at a time, even if you don’t feel ready.

Looking back, it’s hard to see missing milestones. It can skew your direction, location, and how far you’ve come. Replace the milestone with a gravestone to mark your path and just keep walking forward, one step at a time. Click To Tweet

Because, no matter what, whether the trail you leave is littered with milestones or gravestones, God goes before you, and He will never leave your side.


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About the author

Abbi Langille

is a young writer and editor here on the Reb from Nova Scotia, Canada. She enjoys writing both fiction and non-fiction, taking every spare moment to jot down an idea on her laptop or a handy scrap of paper. She is a self-proclaimed nerd and has an addiction to story, whether that means getting lost in someone else’s or creating her own. She has a passion for shedding the light of hope in the darkest nights of those struggling with anxiety, depression, and grief. In her free-time you will find her with a book, paintbrush or camera in her hand.

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rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →