Starting over after the loss of a loved one is a monumental task that can feel overwhelming at times. Whether there has been a death, a divorce, or a separation from a friend, rebuilding your life is usually is necessary.
Shock and denial are normally initial reactions after a loss, particularly if there was no warning. The vision of the future you had with your loved one is suddenly shattered; your hopes and dreams need to be rewritten. How will we cope? How can we go on?
But go on we must, and we will. First, we try to regain what we have lost. Death makes this impossible, but that doesn’t stop us from trying. Much of our grieving process is our best attempt to keep that person alive and well in our perception. We mull over memories, look through picture albums, talk about our loved one to everyone who will listen, think about him or her constantly, and even speak to him or her out loud.
If a loved one has not died, but has chosen to walk out of your life, it can be more challenging; not only do you have to get over the shock of the loss, but you also must cope with the feelings of rejection. In our best attempt to get our loved one back, we may engage in the same behaviors someone who has lost their partner to death would. But in addition, we may beg them to take us back, follow our loved one around, or try to get our friends to intervene on our behalf.
Everyone grieves at his or her own pace. I am in no way suggesting that this process can or should be rushed. What I am saying is that when a person is ready, he or she can turn the grief into a new hope for the future.
There’s a quote I’ve learned from Dr. Seuss that is very helpful during this phase, “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.” This is a highly evolved place to get and not everyone gets there.
However, if you find yourself in the process of starting over, adopting this particular attitude can be fairly helpful. Start by considering all the possible benefits of no longer being in relationship with the person who’s gone. This may seem uncomfortable at first, almost a betrayal of the love you shared, but it is the most healing thing you can do at this point.
In an attempt to show the world how much you loved your partner, you use the depth of your grieving as the message. It’s possible you feel that moving on will, in some way, send the message that your love was shallow or false.
This article is for those who are tired of being depressed, those who are ready to start again with the genuine belief that things can get better. If you are someone who wants to continue grieving, nothing I have to say will alter your course. Only you can decide it is time to move forward.
In 1999, my husband, at the age of thirty-seven, died of leukemia, leaving behind our two teenaged sons. Initially, I was blind to any positive benefits of this event. However, when I was ready to look for the positives, they did appear.
One of the first positives I realized was having the opportunity to say goodbye. My husband’s entire family was able to say the things they wanted to say to bring closure to their relationships with him. Many people do not have that opportunity when loved ones pass.
The second positive I uncovered was the quality time he granted us by no longer working. It wasn’t that he was too sick to work, but that we discovered a link between his type of leukemia and the chemical benzene—a chemical he often worked with as a mechanic. He didn’t want to make his sickness worse, so he gave up being a workaholic. Once diagnosed, he spent lots of quality time with our children. He coached their soccer and Little League teams. He taught our boys how to work on cars and spent long hours with them hunting and fishing. With his typical workaholic behavior, he wouldn’t have spent this much time with them if he had lived to be one-hundred.
You too can find positives in the rubble of your last relationship; it merely requires the proper lenses that will allow you to see it. It is just like Newton said: “Every action creates an equal and opposite reaction.” There will never be a devastating event that reaps no positive benefits. Healing and moving on requires this understanding—these lenses.
While you continue to mourn the loss of your relationship, you’re only keeping yourself in the past. Instead of mourning the loss of the relationship, focus on how fortunate you were to have that relationship in your life for as long as you did—smile because it happened.
There are no guarantees in this life, and when a loved one steps in, there is no surety for how long he or she will stay. They’re not possessions to be owned, but rather our gift to be cherished for as long as we have it.
When healing grief, it is a good first step to reach out to others in our life who love us. The loss of a beloved relationship creates a huge void in our life. Some try to fill this void with numbing devices, such as drugs or alcohol, but that only results in a temporary reprieve from the pain—the grief will await your sobriety.
If love is what we lost, then the only thing that will help us feel better is more love. During this time, you may confuse sex with love and go looking for meaningless encounters. However, this again will only postpone the inevitable pain from the loss of love.
We must replace love with love. Reach out to friends, family, and co-workers—anyone who will fill some of the gap left by your loved one. It’s not the same, it’s not what you are really craving, but it will help heal the pain.
After that temporary reprieve with those who love us, you must start rebuilding your life and your strength. You can go on. You can laugh again. And yes, you can love again. Love has many forms.
You may develop another relationship in time. You may find a cause that you love and believe in. You may “adopt” a neighborhood child. You may find or create work you love. You may get a pet that you can love unconditionally. You may become involved (but not too involved) in the lives of your extended family. Whatever form love takes, it will fill the void that was left by the relationship you lost.
But none of this will truly do the trick unless you learn to love yourself again. How does one accomplish this task? You must take inventory; make a list of all that you have to offer the world. What are your strengths? What are your interests? What are your talents and abilities? What do you love?
If you’re having difficulty completing your list, ask someone you trust for help. An objective viewpoint can often point out positives we can’t see for ourselves.
If you are still unsure of your special talents and skills, make a list of the person that you want to be. What would you like to be able to offer the world? Describe a person that you admire whom you would strive to become. As long as there’s breath in your body, it is never too late to learn to expand and grow into the person that you truly want to be.
If you feel as if your life is over, you are truly wasting the gift of life that you have been given. There is only one you. You have something unique inside you to offer the rest of us. Please don’t keep it hidden within your grief.
Do not climb in the grave with your loved one—it is not your time. Do not wither and die behind the door your loved one closed on his or her way out of your life. Find someone less fortunate than you and do something for them without expecting anything in return. You’ll be surprised what that does to elevate your mood.
To help you with this process check out or Prepare to Love Again ebook.