You have grieved, accepted, let go and are now ready to put your energy into making plans for the future.
Before making any major long-term goals, some preliminary questions can help you avoid a lot of wasted time and energy. Some of those questions include identifying your strengths and weaknesses.
Have you given thoughtful consideration to what you would like to do in the future and what obstacles or barriers you may encounter?
Starting over is never easy.
When we started out in life, it seemed there was a more defined path to follow: going to college, establishing a career, getting married, starting a family, etc. Somehow it was easier to coordinate all the pieces and move in the direction we wanted to go.
“Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul.”
You may be wondering why I am spending so much time on humor, laughter, blessings and gratitude in this series. I am because they are such powerful mindsets that can overcome depression, sorrow, and hopelessness.
They are some of life’s most powerful tools that can be used every day in many circumstances to lift our spirits and motivate us to look for ways to accomplish goals and be happy. This is especially beneficial when healing from a loss.
Did you know that just by searching for positive things to be grateful for, you are activating your brain to produce more feel-good hormones? Just by the process, you are changing how your brain is working. Wow – I think that’s pretty significant!
Most of us would agree that a blessing is something fortunate that has happened to us for which we are thankful. We think of them in the moment as a relief from pressure, something unexpected that reduces stress or makes us feel good.
I have discovered, however, that many times blessings come disguised and are only realized later. We are required to make tough choices within the challenges we face. Making those tough choices has taught me to think beyond the moment.
This was especially true when I was creating a new life for myself after the death of my husband. I knew I not only could survive, but I could use my skills to rebuild a meaningful life.
“I learned that we can withstand a lot of pain and loss and not just survive it but rise above it. I learned that no matter how sad you are today, happiness and laughter and even joy are still distinct possibilities for tomorrow, or if not tomorrow, the day after that. And I learned that you and I have in our power the ability to get all that and more. . . no matter what horrible thing has happened; life still offers you humor if you want it.”
Every year we prepare for the traditional changes that occur with the different seasons – fall to winter, winter to spring, etc. We can also identify with the writer of Ecclesiastes when he talks about the seasons of life we go through. But we are not always ready to accept them, especially when that season exchange is out of sync with our expectations.
We want the pleasant things – we don’t want the unpleasant.
We don’t want to give up one to gain the other. We want life – not death. We want laughter and joy, not weeping and mourning. Yet both are necessary components to life.
I believe it is only within our difficulties, troubles and losses where we discover more about life and ourselves.
Anger, guilt or shame can become lingering emotions felt when losses were troubled by difficult circumstances.
We want a quick fix – one we don’t have to work with. Understanding our emotions can help us find a different response.
In my book, Learning to Live Again in a New World, there are two appendixes. In Appendix A, “Complex Grief Emotions,” I offer additional information on how to work through anger, guilt, shame and fear. Here is a quick overview of the first three.
When any longstanding conflicts are dumped onto our grief and loss, they add another layer of conflicting thoughts and emotions. Unresolved issues between you and the deceased can initiate feelings of shame or guilt. You may not have had a chance for reconciliation or resolution before death.
If losses were the result of random acts of violence, accidents, suicide or any unforeseen death, we may be left with a multitude of unanswerable questions and feelings of anger, confusion, guilt, anxiety, fear and remorse.
If you had been a victim of past abuse, abandonment, rejection or injustice; or lived with years of misunderstandings or conflict with this person who has now died, you will be left with a multitude of incongruous emotions. It might seem as if death has cheated you from finding resolution.
ceremonies or rites of passage symbolize leaving childhood to enter adulthood. Sometimes the rituals are physically demanding – others are simply a public recognition and celebration after instruction. Religions also have symbolic ceremonies to represent a major transition such as Jewish Bar Mitzvahs and Confirmation in the Lutheran and Roman Catholic Churches.
We leave something of ourselves behind in our endings as we move into the next stage of life. Even if we are enthusiastic about a new beginning, the ending can be bitter-sweet. We wait with anticipation for that first child, only to discover in becoming a parent, that we are not free to come and go as we please. Life has been altered forever. We may finally have reached that long-awaited retirement, only to experience restlessness and lack of purpose. It is necessary to redefine who we are at each stage of life.
Every day, we observe the wonders of our world and the transformations that happen throughout the seasons.
Who hasn’t been renewed and refreshed by a cooling summer’s rain or been moved by the beauty and quiet serenity of an earth blanketed in mounds of downy snow or snowflakes that shimmer like diamonds in the winter sun?
Who hasn’t witnessed the peace of a countryside bathed in the light of a full moon?
And what person hasn’t marveled at stars so dazzling and vivid, it seems we could reach up and touch them? At such times, nature is silenced and time suspended.
And yet, the snow is only frozen water, and the sun, moon and stars are nothing more than hardened, desolate, uninhabitable rocks and dangerous gasses.
Misfortune and hardship can take us out of what was predictable and comforting and place us in unfamiliar territory.
Are you despondent and dreading the future, unable to see anything positive to look forward to?
Losses can make everything seem gloomy and hopeless and we resign ourselves to this fate moving forward.
But we can change that picture.
We can reframe what is happening in order to see something positive. Let me share a true story with you.
Years ago, I worked for a company that provided training to injured workers in chronic pain to help in their recovery and their re-entry to the workplace. They had been injured on the job, resulting in their inability to continue working in that same capacity.