Grief is seldom considered a growth experience, especially when you are grieving. However, since the nature of grief changes over time, and we realize it is an ongoing process not a static place to stay, the realization hits that somehow we have to adapt. But how? Life is devoid of meaning and just isn’t the same anymore. And that is exactly your point of departure in growing through grief and using the experience as a steppingstone and not a stumbling block.
But when will you be ready to start making necessary changes? No one, except you, can answer that question. When you’re ready, you’re ready. You’ll know. Here are the three new beginnings.
1. Start accepting the fact that without the physical presence of our loved one, life will be different. In thirty years of working with the bereaved, I can tell you that no one likes to address the fact that it’s a new life. Who wants to give up the old predictable and meaningful life for one in which new routines and sometimes new skills have to be developed? Few, if any, willingly step up and embrace the unknown.
Yet acceptance of the new, knowing we cannot change what has occurred, is a crucial decision for reducing unnecessary suffering. It will also help combat reactive depression and the fatigue so often encountered when mourning.
2. The above has to be accompanied by adopting a new belief: You have to change to a different or a new you because you are dealing with what is essentially a new normal. On a scale of one to ten, ask yourself how committed you are to working on the changed conditions of life. If you are not at the high end of the scale, insisting you will manage your great loss, your transformation will be slow and cumbersome.
Unless you do something different you cannot expect different results. The death of our loved one means we have to change, if we are to adapt. There is no choice in this regard. We either do it with eyes wide open or we will be dragged through our new world, resisting all the way. And as an old psychological saying has it: “What you resist persists.” You will pay a heavy physical and emotional price in challenging the inevitable.
3. So let’s assume you agree with the first two changes, that it’s a new life and you are determined to manage your dark night. What next? Assemble a supportive group of resources. More specifically, you do not have to “be strong” and go it alone. This is the third change and it means reach out and take action. Seeking input (I hesitate to use the word help) is not a sign of weakness. Rather, it is a normal human response in a time of need.