Something precious and significant is taken from us. A death, an accident, a diagnosis, a broken marriage happens and loss and grief set in. We collapse into the ruins of disaster. Our current path is gone, flooded out by raging waters, sinking us into complete darkness. An envisioned future is gone. We crawl into that deep dark cave where we become an empty shell of ourselves.
We are broken, cracked open to the core. And we remain cocooned within covered in a blanket of pain.
At some point, having journeyed deep into the pain of grief, and with the love, support and encouragement of others, we begin to look up and realize there can still be some living to do, albeit in a different form.
And so we pull back those drapes that have done their good job of closing us off from the outside world that continues on, and we begin to peek out towards the light.
We are called upon to reconfigure our life, to adjust and transition into a new life, a new normal.
Here are 4 important things to know about grief and a new normal:
- Grief is here to stay, to some degree. It is a sign of love and significance we hold to the person, thing or situation we lost. We move through grief. The intensity won’t be the same as with the initial impact; but just as we will always feel the love, we will naturally feel the sadness and longing of the loss that can never be reclaimed. The stronger the connection to that which was lost, the more intense the grief. The good news is we can still go on and grow on. We can hold pain and joy together.
- We begin to let go of our expectations and dreams of what could’ve been, of the future we will no longer have, of all that we had hoped for. And we begin to attach to new possibilities and new dreams. We start to accept and open up to our new reality. Our sights are now set on the different, on the change, on the fact that ‘this certainly isn’t what I expected but it’s what is now’. The ‘what is’ becomes the work and new life to rebuild. We integrate the loss as it becomes a part of our life tapestry and seek to pave the way for a new path.
- Making mean from loss helps in creating a new normal. As grief expert David Kessler states, “Loss is what happens to you in life. Meaning is what you make happen.” It doesn’t take away grief but it helps us to move forward. We look outside ourselves towards a broader perspective. “What can I do with what’s happened to me?” Some will look to help others going through similar painful circumstances. Some of the greatest organizations have been started out of loss and sorrow. We look to fill that gaping hole with something of significance, some good, something meaningful.
- We come to realize it’s not what happens to us but how we respond. That is our choice. As we heal emotionally, we begin to evolve and grow. We take our pain and loss and use it as a springboard for growth and enhancement. A sense of renewal lights our way forward.
We obviously don’t ask for the pain and suffering, but once it’s here, it is up to us what we do with it, how we live on with it. It’s in allowing ourselves to go through the pain and grief that we come through it and can look to rebuild our life into a new normal. As we can hold pain and joy together, we hold broken and whole together. We are richer for it and have that much more to give out to the world. As Leonard Cohen so beautifully wrote in his song, Anthem, “There is a crack, a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.”
Harriet Cabelly is a clinical social worker and positive psychology coach. Regaining one’s footing after a critical life situation is a journey Harriet takes with her clients as they cope and grow through their grief and loss, guiding them towards rebuilding their lives with renewed purpose and joy. Visit her website, https://rebuildlifenow.com/ to learn more about her work and to receive some free chapters from her book, Living Well Despite Adversity.
Thank you. Very enlightening. It’s been over 3 years since I lost my wife, and there’s been many times I thought I was ready to move on only to find out I wasn’t. All part of the process I suppose.