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Before the year ends, I want to summarize the two books I wrote that were the focus of my blog and podcast. This week, I share some of the highlights from my book, Learning to Live Again in a New World, which was released in January 2020. My blog posts and podcast episodes through June reflected the ways we can work through grief and begin to rebuild our lives.
When my husband died, the world as I knew it came to an end. I wrote about that ending and early days of grief in my first book, A Love So Great, A Grief So Deep, sharing the pain of losing someone I loved with my whole heart.
As a licensed counselor, I knew that if I stayed in that space of sorrow, I wouldn’t heal and instead would keep mourning without any hope of a meaningful life again.
I began working with others who had lost loved ones. We shared the struggle to let go and move on. There was a reluctance to do so – almost as if we would be devaluing our loved one if we did.
I started applying therapeutic techniques used by counselors to help clients work through difficulties. Those strategies enabled me to take back my life, re-identify myself and construct a plan of action moving forward. My book, Learning to Live Again in a New World, is a culmination of that work and shares methods and strategies to move from pain and deep sorrow to letting go and rebuilding.
Many things can increase the grief we feel.
For example, grief intensifies during the holidays. The uncertainties and isolation caused by the pandemic or other drastic changes intensifies that loss. High levels of stress, uncertainty and anxiety make it difficult to work through problems associated with it.
A variety of things in your life are changed. Your social circles are drastically altered. If you lost a spouse, you are now a single person in couple gatherings.
With the death of a child, you are no longer able to share with other parents the joys and difficulties of raising your children.
You may be required to re-locate or downsize. Your financial status might have been radically altered. I had to sell our newly built home and invest the proceeds to provide financial stability. Unexpected decisions created incredible anxiety as I struggled to make the right choices moving forward. Where should I live? What could I afford?
Why is it so difficult to let go?
We hang on to our loss because we struggle to accept that what was so important to us is now gone. Unconsciously, we want to believe that if we stay in that space of mourning that it will keep alive what we had. We fear the unpredictability of starting over again. We don’t know where to begin or how to begin. We don’t have a roadmap. We are forced to face ourselves, our fears and doubts and insecurities as never before.
Loss takes away the life and identity we had – how we defined ourselves.
It is in that conflict of loss, grief, and uncertainty that we are required to step out in faith and discover who we are today.
What does it mean to rebuild?
In the physical world, rebuilding means restoring something that was broken, damaged or destroyed.
In the internal realm, it is restoring equilibrium, hope, vision, and direction. It is repairing the great emotional rift. You can replace, strengthen, and reinforce your resolve. You can re-shape your future and put in place new goals that represent who you are today. You can re-assemble the broken parts and refashion them into a new you.
This requires making adjustments, sometimes radical, as you let go of what is no longer relevant to reclaim your ability to plan and create.
Throughout this journey, I learned
- that we can not only heal and recover, but we can have a meaningful life with purpose again
- that in letting go, I still maintained my happy memories – I could have both my memories and a new beginning
- that we will experience anxiety, fear and doubts, requiring us to hang on to the promises of God
- that when we step out in faith, we are given the strength and courage to move forward
- that when I changed my focus from the past to working on a new tomorrow, life began to take a positive turn
- that in working on a new future, I was not minimizing what I lost
- that when I questioned my abilities, I was able to affirm them
- that I could experience satisfaction and happiness again when I told myself, “Yes I can.” It became a new mantra. I could make it. I could recover.
- that when I refused to let my loss take me down, I was given the confidence I needed to keep trying and succeed
In Learning to Live Again in a New World, I take you through what I consider four basic phases of recovery and rebuilding.
In Phase I, I share the pain of those early days and months and offer suggestions on how to work through this intense time period.
In Phase II, I address the struggle to accept and let go and close the door to the past.
In Phase III, the chapters reflect how to re-define yourself – finding a new identity and a new path.
In Phase IV, you weave together what you have learned on your journey and develop a plan of action for your future – a new beginning. Each chapter begins with a vignette or personal story and ends with a personal reflection and application worksheet, with information, exercises, and methods to work through the pain and conflicts.
Change takes time. Healing and recovery take time.
You will experience anxiety, worry, concern, and deep sorrow. You may question your ability to succeed. You may experience other losses in quick succession.
But as you step into the face of pain and fear, you discover that you are becoming stronger than ever before. In the process, you develop confidence and trust in your ability to take charge of all aspects of your life. You learn that while recovery is never easy, you can make it.
As you let go of what had been, your heart and spirit begin to heal.
If you or someone you know has encountered a recent loss or are struggling to regain a new life after a lot of time has gone past, this book can help you find a path through and beyond. It is a book I recommend to anyone who may be struggling with the losses in their lives.
Next week I will recap my book, Make Stress Work for You, that was updated and released in spring of this year.
We need validation for the turmoil of thoughts and emotions we experience. But we also need the tools necessary to create a new beginning that is both satisfying and meaningful. My new book, Learning to Live Again in a New World, offers those tools to help work through the problems you might be facing.