Losing a loved one is something everyone will experience at least once in their life, and it can be an incredibly challenging moment of our life.
But what about after? At some point you feel like you’re just expected to continue going on with life, as if this person hasn’t just left a gaping hole that feels impossible to fill.
So, how do we go on? How can we reconnect with our lives after experiencing loss?
Living with the grief.
It’s probably not what anyone ever wants to hear, but it’s the truth; there is no magical end date or cure for grief.
Some people will tell you to just wait until you’re ready to start back to your normal routine, but not all of us are completely clued into what our thoughts, feelings and emotions are trying to tell us. Months might have gone by and you’re still tempted to withdraw, cancel or say no to plans with friends and indulge in distractions or leaning on poor coping mechanisms for emotional support.
So, how do you know when the time is right?
There is no right time, but the best thing you can do for yourself is take it one day at a time. Even just accomplishing one tiny task can help you slowly reenter life.
This could be cleaning one part of your house, or spending one hour getting coffee with a friend. And if these actions sound like too much? Make them smaller and more manageable. It takes time to build back up.
Not putting any pressure on yourself to accomplish something everyday is also important. We all have our good and bad days, and some days the grief might feel more pressing than others.
Struggling with reconnecting.
What have you stopped doing since experiencing the death of your loved one? More specifically, what do you no longer do that you used to previously enjoy or find fulfilling? These may be things that you stopped doing because:
- You don’t have the time.
- It’s too much effort.
- It reminds you of your loved one.
- It just seems less fun.
The funny thing with not wanting to do these things again because of the above reasons, the more you actually do them, the better you’ll feel.
Not only that, but they can even help you cope with the grief. Socialising, hobbies, art, journalising, all of these things can help process your grief and emotions. Sometimes what it takes is the leap of just doing to see the benefits.
Living your life doesn’t mean you’re moving on and forgetting.
A thought or feeling that might be holding you back from reconnecting with your life is that by doing so, you’re moving on, betraying your loved one or forgetting them altogether.
This guilt about living your life is understandable, but think of it from your loved one’s perspective. Now, would they want you to stop living?
Of course not. The memory of your loved one lives on with you and all the other people that were lucky enough to know them. You going out there and getting back to the parts of life that bring joy does not erase the grief. They can coexist together, and the reality is that they will for a very long time.
As for betrayal, the only person you’re betraying by actively avoiding your life is yourself. After all, life is full of incredible experiences, and you are allowed to thrive, even if you don’t think you can or should right now.
Create a new plan for your life.
At some point down the road, you might want to start thinking about what your life looks like now, especially if the person you lost was going to play a significant role in your future.
Your goals and plans don’t have to be anything massive or life changing; they can simply help you get back to yourself, and to a routine that works with your new life.
Some more achievable goals could look like:
- Socialising with friends a certain number of times in a week or month.
- Making sure to leave the house every day, even if it’s to stand in the backyard or walk around the block.
- Setting a routine for getting out of bed and exercising.
- Making plans for weeks or months in the future; such as a weekend away or holiday.
You don’t need to have a clear view of what your future looks like, but making future plans gives us something to look forward to, which could be the extra bit of serotonin you need to keep going.
When to seek professional help.
Seeing a counsellor, psychologist or even joining a grief support group are all incredibly beneficial for grief, no matter how long it’s been since you’ve lost your loved one.
However, if you are experiencing months and months in the same place and it feels impossible to re-enter and reconnect with your life or who you were before loss, it’s time to seek professional help.
Here is a list of grief counselling and support services in Australia. If you need immediate support or are experiencing a crisis, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.