Getting Back to Normal After a Loss
Loss can be soul-crushing and gut-wrenching, but at some point, things start to stabilize a bit and you’re faced with a “new normal.” By normal, we don’t mean you forget your loved one and are happy as a clam. What we mean by normal is that you have to get back to your job, provide care for your children, attend doctor’s appointments, and return to a daily routine. This semblance of routine can provide a degree of comfort, as can attending support groups as part of bereavement services in Alameda County and elsewhere.
Returning to normal takes time. Everyone does it at a different pace. When you’re ready to ease back into life, here are some tips to make it less painful.
Actively Choose Small Activities
Before you start getting overwhelmed with the expectation that you “get back to normal,” remember that this process doesn’t mean you have to jump back into all your regular activities. Rather, make a conscious decision to actively choose small, worthwhile activities and deliberately plan to do them, advises What’s Your Grief. You may have stopped doing certain things that used to bring you pleasure because:
- You can’t seem to find the time and energy.
- They take too much effort and energy.
- They remind you of your loved one
- They don’t seem as fun without your loved one.
All valid points. But let’s say you deliberately decide to take part in those activities again or even try something new. Perhaps you would start to feel better, one little step, one day at a time. Some outlets can actually help you cope with your grief, such as meeting supportive friends for coffee, writing in your journal daily, painting, volunteering — whatever it is, dip a toe in slowly. You may be surprised to learn that the activities you once loved — or a brand new activity you took up — is helping your healing process. Perhaps they’re helping you connect with other people, or maybe you’re feeling a sense of empowerment by tackling a difficult task, or perhaps you feel a sense of calm and peace when you engage in that activity. Feeling human again is the biggest motivator to healing that there is.
Take It One Day at a Time
Right after a loss, it’s nearly impossible to see the long-term picture. This is why it comes in handy to set small goals for yourself. Maybe on your first day back at work, you can focus all your energy on making it till your coffee break, then till lunch, then till the end of the day. Do this every day until you don’t have to count down every hour. It may take weeks, it may take months, but keep pushing through until a day of work is not as big of an insurmountable challenge.
Explore Your Emotions
No one wants to burst into tears at student drop-off in the morning or in the middle of the grocery store. But give yourself permission to explore those emotions as they come. You may get better at harnessing when you are hit by grief, but overall, grief is a fickle thing. You can’t always see it coming. Don’t be embarrassed or apologize. Instead, allow yourself a few moments to feel those emotions, embrace them, recognize them for what they are, and then take a moment to collect yourself. When you’re at home, take time to look through old photographs, watch videos, listen to a song. Let out your emotions every now and then so they don’t get bottled up. We all feel better after a good cry.
Redefining happiness may help ease the pain. This doesn’t mean you have to find ways to “fill the void,” but it may mean looking for new things from which to derive happiness. This could be experiencing personal fulfillment from accomplishing a goal to spending more time with family or learning how to play an instrument. Learning to live again after loss sometimes requires an adjustment in outlook, says Everyday Health.
Open Up to Others
Closing yourself off and keeping people out will not help you re-emerge again after loss. We are social beings by nature, and even though you can’t fathom it now, you will need the support and love of your family and friends at some point. Your loved ones want to help. They may feel helpless like they can’t do anything for you. Let them in. Let them help with picking up your kids from school or grabbing dinner so you don’t have to cook. Share a glass of wine with an old friend and just talk. You may find someone who feels the same as you. Even support groups can be a great source of comfort. Everyone there knows how you are feeling. Draw from that strength.
Embrace Life Again
Use the purpose and love of your loved one as an opportunity to embrace your own life. They are gone, yes. But you are very much here. No one is promised tomorrow, so get out there (when you’re ready) and embrace life with open arms.
Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice
Here at Pathways, we have a variety of support groups for you to benefit from. Contact us at 888-978-1306 to learn more. We have a group for everybody!