Nine months ago, my husband and I sold our beloved little Craftsman in our favorite Seattle neighborhood and moved to the suburbs. We needed to move—six people, four of them growing rapidly, in a two-bedroom house was becoming untenable. No, it was already untenable. I was at the end of my rope, and my sanity.

So we moved.

And I am still grieving. I miss my little house so much. I miss my old neighborhood. It doesn’t help that now it takes 45 minutes to visit my friends or that every third day, something in our new-to-us house breaks: the furnace, the electrical outlets in the kitchen, the dishwasher. Even the baseboards are falling off the walls.

Craftsman house

I have raged and railed and grieved. I have given thanks and made (figurative) lemonade and tried to look on the bright side. I have beaten myself up with shameful words. I have hidden. I have half-hoped the house would burn to the ground. I have tried to let go of my anger and grief. I have pleaded with God.

But I am stuck in this house. I cannot go back. I cannot unmake the decision I made last summer.

After nine months I am still—still—grieving.

Three weeks ago, I got sick of it. I was tired of expending so much emotional energy on this dung-hill of a house. I was tired of being sad and angry. I was tired of spinning inside my own head, beating myself black-and-blue with might-have-beens and should-have-beens and what-ifs and if-onlys.

So I tried something new. I decided I would choose my response to this house, this move, this town, this life. I know I cannot change how I feel. But I can choose how I respond to how I feel. I can stop being afraid of my emotions. I can stop cowering before them. I can stop fearing that they will overwhelm me and ruin my life. I can stop telling them they’re not welcome, that they need to leave.

So I said to myself, “Little Kimberlee, I know you loved your little house. I know you miss it. I know you miss Seattle. I know you dislike—sometimes you even loathe—the thrice-weekly drive into the city. I know it’s painful to see your old neighborhood each week and not be able to live there. And it’s totally okay for you to be sad.”

I wrote those words down in my journal. I told the sad part of myself that she could grieve. I told her she could cry. I told her I would stop shaming her and let her feel what she needed to feel.

I told her I was no longer afraid of her sadness, her sorrow, her grief, or her guilt. I told her I would carry her sadness gently, tenderly. I apologized for refusing to be gentle with her, for belittling her grief, for beating her up, for dragging her to her feet and forcing her to march and move on.


I told her that from here on out, I would let her grieve until she was ready to move on.

But I also told her that I wasn’t going to let her grief rule me, that I needed to go about my days and love my kids and do my work and live my life even as she grieved. I told her I was sad, too—she is me, after all—but that I was going to transcend that grief, that I was going to find joy in the midst of her sadness, that I would look for the gifts of my life and be grateful for them, and that I would show them to her, not to cheer her up, but simply to remind her that there is life beyond her sadness.

I told her I would carry her gently, hold her tenderly, and trust that I am strong enough to walk with joy with her and her sadness in my arms. I told her I would laugh and live and love and that eventually, she would, too.

“But,” I said, “for now I’ll let you grieve. Till your grief runs its course, I’ll let you grieve.”

“In the meantime,” I told her, “I’m going to let both things be true at the same time: we’re going to feel grief and gratitude; we’re going to feel sad and sing a song of joy.” The crazy thing about this conversation I had with myself? It worked. I have grieved—I’ve probably cried more tears in the weeks since that conversation than in the months before it—but it’s simple sadness untinged by the guilt and shame that were forcing me in on myself, that were making me feel angry and trapped and helpless as well as sad.

We still live in our house with the broken furnace and the falling-off baseboards. I still live in the suburbs. Those things aren’t going to change anytime soon. But by inviting my grieving self to the table and feeding her on the milk of human kindness (as I would feed anyone else in her shoes), I no longer feel trapped by those things. By extending hospitality to a part of myself that I wished would go away, I have changed. Not a lot. Just a little. But that tiny little change?

It’s setting me free.

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K. C. Ireton / Posts / Blog
K.C. Ireton is the author of two books and the mother of four children. An avid reader, she believes that a day without books is a day without meaning or joy. She also likes food, especially when her husband prepares it. Vive le weekend!
  • Leah Adams

    Kimberlee, oh how I get this. I, too, am in a season of grieving…the loss of my Mother, the loss of other family relationships, the loss of so much in the past 6 months. Some say, “move on”, ” think about the blessings in your life”. Yet, there is this grief that must be felt and lived and worked through. The tension of grief, the fine line between working through it and it consuming you. It sounds like you are stewarding your grief well. May God continue to heal your heart.

    May 20th, 2015 11:26
    • Kimberlee Conway Ireton

      Leah, may God continue to heal your heart, too, as you let yourself grieve all this loss. I am coming to believe that grief is one of God’s gifts to us. A severe gift, to be sure (and one I often would rather forego), but a gift nonetheless. Grief insists upon the importance of what was lost and thereby honors it. As we let it work itself out in us, it works itself out of us. It sounds like you know all this, so I simply pray that you will continue to be hospitable to your grieving heart as God works with you through the grief.

      May 20th, 2015 21:21
      • Leah Adams

        Kimberlee, your words in your reply to me are profound to my heart. May I use this quote?: “Grief insists upon the importance of what was lost and thereby honors it. As we let it work itself out in us, it works itself out of us.”

        May 21st, 2015 11:38
        • Kimberlee Conway Ireton

          Leah, of course you can use those words. I’m honored you want to 🙂

          May 23rd, 2015 19:32
          • Leah Adams

            Thank you. I will certainly give you credit.

            May 23rd, 2015 19:45
  • Kris Camealy

    Kimberlee, I am grateful for this offering here today. Man, I have been where you are, not with a house but in other places in life, and choosing joy IN the grief is not easy, but always rewarding. I loved *hearing* your voice as you pep-talked yourself through this transition, and how you remind us that sometimes, we are the hardest to receive hospitality from ourselves. This one has me thinking, friend. Thank you for your open heart.

    May 20th, 2015 17:34
    • Kimberlee Conway Ireton

      Kris, At the end of my YA novel (which is, and will forever remain, unpublished), the narrator says, “I had not known that joy and sorrow could coexist in the same moment, the same heart.” I wrote those words two years before my boys were born, and I think they were prescient, because I’m not sure that I knew that then 🙂 Or if I did, it was a glimpsed rather than a lived knowing. Regardless, I have learned it many, many times since then. And in this season I am learning yet again to let them both be, at the same time, in my one heart.

      May 20th, 2015 21:13
  • layla bb solms

    Kimberlee, I can’t tell you how happy I am that you shared your heart with us. The idea of not shaming oneself for the grief is a difficult lesson that many of us have had to learn and learn many times over. “I’m going to let both things be true at the same time: we’re going to feel grief and gratitude; we’re going to feel sad and sing a song of joy.” — This just melts my heart. Thank you. I’ve been looking at a traumatic teaching experience in the rear-view mirror for nearly 3 years, and some nights it feels as though the objects really are closer than they appear. Thank you for sharing out of your soul. Bless you.

    May 20th, 2015 18:47
    • Kimberlee Conway Ireton

      Thank you, Layla. Yes, we learn the same hard lessons again and again and again, don’t we? It’s easy to beat ourselves up for not having learned it (whatever “it” is) by now, which is, of course, totally unhelpful. (I still do it, though…)

      I take comfort in Lilias Trotter’s words: “It ought to take us shorter time as we go on to learn our lessons and to trust and not be afraid, just as the spiral comes round by a swifter path as it nears its summit.”

      Yes, it’s the same place, the same lesson, but it’s also different; we’re higher up and further in, so the lesson we’re learning isn’t quite the same. Similar, perhaps, but not the same. And we’re quicker to realize what we need to do because we’ve been round the mountain a few times and we recognize this valley. We’ve been here before, further down. It might take awhile to realize that’s where we are, but once we do, we have a clearer sense of what is needful in this hard place.

      I’m so sorry for your dark nights of the soul when the past looms large. I pray peace and healing over that place.

      May 20th, 2015 21:06
  • pastordt

    Gorgeous and true, Kimberlee. Thanks so much. We all need to be tender with that small person inside.

    May 20th, 2015 23:29
  • Jody Ohlsen Collins
    Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Oh, friend, sadness and grief can coexist with the joy, too. May God continue to grace your beautiful self with all the time and tenderness you need as you grief the loss and the change. The House will be there to ‘meet you’ whenever you’re ready….

    May 21st, 2015 5:04
  • Sandra Heska King

    Can I just give you a hug, Kimberlee? I’ve had to live with losing a house I loved in a out-of-state move that dragged on longer than we expected. Good ultimately came from that–but with that joy came so much grief and so many hopes and expectations dashed over the years. I’ve had to learn to live with that balance. Or maybe I’m learning to live with it. I slip off that beam often and doubt I’ll ever stick it until “The House.” Someone said grief proves you loved. You love well. Keep loving on yourself.

    May 22nd, 2015 11:06
  • Whitney

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    February 27th, 2016 8:23

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