Memorials are over – people have gone home – life goes on.
Or has it?
Life might have resumed for others who have gone home to their families and familiar routines. But your life has been drastically changed. Life doesn’t just “go on” for you.
No matter what tragedy or loss you have encountered, it has drastically disrupted your life. Before you can establish a new normal, you need to first let go of what was.
To let go, you need to stop struggling. There is a natural resistance to accepting the ending of something valuable and important. When you continue to resist, however, you risk getting stuck in sorrow, sadness and depression; and maybe anger and resentment.
I asked a friend recently who attends a grief and loss support group, what one thing that people attending wanted – one thing they hoped for.
Her answer: to experience joy again.
For anyone who has lost a significant person in their life, that question is high on their list of doubts and uncertainties.
Will I ever be happy again? That person I lost had been an integral part of my life and my identity. When we were together, I felt whole and complete. It was where I found pleasure, joy and the most contentment and happiness.
When we have lost something of great importance, our lives are forever changed.
With most unwanted changes, we make an adjustment and move on; life resumes and basically remains the same. It is when something of great significance and deep emotional attachment has been taken away, that our life becomes radically changed.
Losses are personal.
Nobody but you can determine how important a loss is. A child who has just lost a beloved pet or toy experiences sadness at a deeper level than we might think. Their attachment to that pet and toy was extremely important to them. It is essential that we respect a child’s grief and help them through it instead of dismissing it.
“This can’t be happening. There was so little warning. He had been so healthy. There was no time to prepare. I’m numb. What do I do now?”
This begins Chapter 1 in my book, Learning to Live Again in a New World.
Our first reaction of any kind to an unexpected tragedy, crisis, or loss is usually shock and disbelief. We are unprepared for the enormity of how our world has been turned upside down and inside out.
The world we knew has just ended and we struggle to accept what is happening. Denial storms into our existence as we try to wrap our brain around this loss.
Even when we are prepared for a loss that is the result of a long-term illness, it brings with it sadness and sorrow. The illness itself might have been premature and unexpected. They were too young to get sick; he was so healthy, etc. Whether we are prepared or not, grief demands its own time frame to work through the tangles of disbelief and unreality.
There are many layers connected to the loss of someone you loved. It isn’t just the person we grieve; it is everything associated with the life we shared: the fun times, meals together, the friends we associated with, and the sharing of everyday life. There were times of serious discussions or debates around differences.
It was knowing that someone was there who shared your life, even when there was no conversation or when one of you was away from home for long periods of time. It is that comfortable resting spot of knowing you are not alone even when apart – that familiarity that complements and completes both lives. You planned together, fought together, and considered options for your future together. You bounced ideas off each other for almost every aspect of living.
Grieving is Hard Work!
Grieving was some of the hardest work I have ever done. When my husband died after forty-two years of marriage, I looked for resources to help me through the process. The books available at that time were either too clinical or singular in purpose, such as memoirs.
We have come a long way from those days when the focus was simply on getting people through the early days and months after a loss. It is now recognized that grieving includes the need to focus on how to rebuild your life.
Losses are Part of Life
Throughout our lifetime we will experience losses. Most are small or minor; we negotiate the change and move on, such as typical life changes. We might feel sad about what we are giving up but are looking forward to what the future holds.