Grief, Mourning & a Coffee Shop

I learned a few weeks ago that my beloved coffee shop across from my office building closed permanently. When I heard the news, I wasn’t shocked, but I was quite sad. But as the weeks have passed, whenever I think about it I feel a gripping grief. As I lay in bed last week, thinking about our office reopening (eventually), but the coffee shop no longer being there, I began to feel overwhelmed. The sadness was rising up inside of me and tears started streaming down my face.

I really loved that coffee shop.   It might seem a little odd because I’m not actually much of a coffee drinker. I’m pretty sure I ordered a beverage containing coffee there less than five times – but I did learn that Dirty Chais (especially when I’d been up since 5 am) were pretty amazing. I first visited little cafe when I interviewed for my job. As a bit of a foodie, when visiting new places I like to check out what kind of restaurants, cafes, etc. are in the area that I should check out. The coffee shop popped up at the top of my search bar. As soon as I walked in, I sensed the place was special. It was more than just a shop – there was a palpable sense of community.

Early on I discovered, they served Hugo mango iced tea – and after a couple of weeks I realized there were free refills! I would typically get my iced tea around lunch time and then a couple hours later get my 2nd cup of tea (maybe once or twice I got a third cup!). It wasn’t long before the owner and regular barista, Harleigh and Tom, knew me by name. There were a few regular customers who I began to chat with and those conversations often lifted me up through the day. Even before COVID-19, as I began to work from home more often, I missed going there. 

But when I return to my office, they won’t be there. The tears made no sense, yet the tears made all the sense in the world. I was grieving for more than the coffee shop. I was grieving for the way in which things will never be the same. The last few months have changed the world in many ways. I’m sure it will be quite some time before we even realize the full extent of it. But I know I often want to skip over the grieving. I want to see the bright side – try to look at the positives. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s good to be thankful and see the ways God is at work. But sometimes I have to give myself permission to grieve – to recognize it’s okay to feel the loss of things that will never be the same.

It’s about more than just the coffee shop. I’ve experienced a lot of change in my life. A lot of change in the past year. A lot of change in the past 3 years. The past 5 years. The past 10 years. Yes, a lot of change. I can skip from one adventure or project or city or country to the next. And I can try to ignore that period of mourning – that acknowledgment that things won’t ever be the same – and the real grief that comes with that realization.

It’s about more than just this moment. Sometimes one event brings the grief with it of so many other memories – times I haven’t stopped to acknowledge the change or loss. So much of Scripture tells us to remember, to lament, and to acknowledge grief and change. I’m reminded of the seasons of Ecclesiastes 3 – and realize that those seasons don’t necessarily occur in isolation. Sometimes we mourn while we dance. We have to see death in order to experience new life.

So today, I mourn for the loss of my coffee shop. I mourn for the owners and workers who brought so much joy to me and others – who have lost something they poured their lives into. I also grieve the many changes and losses in my own life – the many things that will never be the same. But I also celebrate that coffee shop. I celebrate the friends I’ve made around the world, the places I’ve seen, and the moments that I’ll never recapture – because those people, places, and things have made me who I am today.  

Yes, it’s about more than just the coffee shop – but that coffee shop was more than just a coffee shop. It was a part of my life. And it’s okay – and even good – to mourn the lost parts of our lives – and like the many other parts of my life that have existed and shaped me for a season, I will carry it with me wherever I go.  

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