Adjusting to Life After Loss

Is there life after loss?

When we experience the loss of a  loved one, we may feel that we will never be happy.
When we experience the loss of a loved one, we may feel that we will never be happy. | Source

Loss takes from us that which is most precious and dear. Whether death, divorce, abandonment, or dismemberment, the resulting vacuum can suck the life right out of us. In order to find enjoyment again in life, major adjustments must be made. These include but are not limited to changes in our:

  • Traditions
  • Relationships
  • Routines
  • Thought patterns

As we grow in our understanding of these changes, we can expedite the adjustment process, and bring peaceful resolution to the difficulties we are facing. No matter what we do, it will take time, courage, and perseverance. Change is not easy, especially when loss touches that which is most intimate in life.

Adjusting Traditions

Traditions are the stuff of which life is made. They encompass special occasions and daily activities, involving all of our senses in a most pleasant mixture of sights, smells, feelings, and moods. These memorable events that solidify the family unit often revolve around holidays and holy days.

When someone who has been a significant part of our traditions is gone, we feel vulnerable, unsure of how to proceed. The closer the loss is to us, the more dramatic are its affects. We fear that life will never be the same, that we will not experience happiness and joy again because the person who was such a large part of it is no longer with us.

In order to adjust, we have to re-define what these traditions mean to us, and how we can continue them in a way that they bring us joy and happiness. We ask the questions:

  • Is it possible to continue the tradition? If so, how?
  • Would continuing the tradition bring such painful memories that it is better to let it go?
  • Can the tradition be modified in such a way that it is better for all involved?
  • Is there another tradition that can take its place?

As we ask ourselves these questions, we bring resolution to the change process more quickly, and move on with our lives. As generations of family members come and go, traditions by nature evolve. The choice is ours, and we need not feel obligated, or even pressured, into continuing something that is no longer valid for our current situation.

We may have to do different things with the special days in our lives in order to establish a new sense of purpose and meaning.
We may have to do different things with the special days in our lives in order to establish a new sense of purpose and meaning. | Source

Adjusting Relationships

Both birth and death take us from one stage of life to another. We move from our family position as children and siblings to parents as we marry and have children of our own. We move from the parent and aunt/uncle phase to take the position of the older generation as they pass from this life.

Sometimes these adjustments have to be made prematurely, as in the case of the unmarried having children, or of parents passing away before grandparents. At times like these, we still have to make the adjustments in our relationships in order to move past our loss. The table below shows what some of these changes are and how they affect our everyday lives.

Family Position
Responsibilities
Future Role
Grandparent
Support families of children
Leave a legacy to the younger generation
Parent
Bear and rear children
Take care of aging parents
Oldest child
Take care of younger siblings
Replace the parent as head of the family
Middle child
Learn from older siblings' experience
Keep peace between older and younger siblings
Youngest Child
Be willing to have more than one parent
Learn independence

When someone in our own generation passes away, we often feel a keen sense of vulnerability, knowing that at any time, we could be next. Our natural instinct is to withdraw from others, and bide our time until "our day" comes. This is a great tragedy. It is far better to seek out our loved ones, spend additional time with them, and increase the legacy that we are leaving to them.

The day will come when we may feel very alone, either due to the death of a spouse, or a child in our immediate family. These types of losses bring poignant feelings of isolation. Although it may be painful to go outside of our comfort zone and meet new people, our personal ability to adjust depends on our going through this process. We may have to leave the familiarity of our home and even our community for a time, to find the strength needed to move on.

Life has a way of giving us the time that we need to work through our grief and pain. Taking the opportunity to talk about our loss with our loved ones and others we meet, and allowing ourselves to remember, even though it is painful, all give us additional peace and serenity.

Sometimes, we have to make major changes to find our place again.
Sometimes, we have to make major changes to find our place again. | Source

Adjusting Routines

When someone we love dearly leaves us, we may have to change the way we live, especially if we have spent a great deal of time caring for them. This is the case if we have had an aging parent living with us for a number of years, or experience the death of a young child.

The void that is created when our caring is no longer needed may affect our feelings of self-worth. Thoughts of helplessness, hopelessness, or worthlessness lead to depression and anxiety.These are red flags for possible self-harm, and should be taken seriously. Seek immediate medical intervention if this is the case.

The daily routines of sleeping, eating, bathing, dressing, and taking care of oneself need to continue, even though the companions with which we do these things are no longer with us. Family members would do well to stay with a loved one for a time after they experience the death of a spouse or child to ensure that these routines continue. Otherwise, illness may easily set in, and further complications occur.

Life is seen through different eyes after loss. There are sights, smells, and sounds that are no longer part of our lives. We miss them, and the tears flow readily. We notice things we didn't notice before. We may find ourselves wandering around aimlessly, as the person we lost helped to provide us with meaning, purpose, and direction.

It is in times like these, that we have to look back in our lives and find the things that used to bring us joy and happiness. Once we figure out what these things are, we can bring them back into the here and now, and establish new habits, routines, and interests.

Once we have made the adjustments necessary, we are ready to move forward.
Once we have made the adjustments necessary, we are ready to move forward. | Source

Adjusting Thought Patterns

Adjusting our thought patterns is probably the most difficult thing that we have to do after a loss. We often are on "automatic" when we go throughout our daily lives. Only when we are interrupted by the unexpected do we realize that our thoughts are part of our conscious beings. Then we notice that we can't think the same any more.

Loss brings with it many ramifications, including the workings of grief and mourning. The changes in our feelings may be abrupt and happen unexpectedly. We may be happy and smiling one moment, and in the depths of despair the next. The only way to work through these feelings is to adjust what we are thinking about at the time. Each instance brings with it new memories, new issues to resolve, and new decisions to make.

Understanding our thought processes is the first step in changing them. Beliefs are the seeds of our thoughts, and our actions are the plants that grow from them. If we find that we continue on a downward spiral of negativity, we need to check for distorted thinking patterns. No one is immune from having these types of issues, especially when suffering after a loss.

Our ability to turn to our Maker for comfort will also expedite adjustment. When we look to the heavens for strength, guidance, and peace, we are filled with wonder and awe at the great plan of mercy that rains upon us in our time of drought. The living water that bathes our parched souls during these moments renews our faith and hope.

Life can and will be beautiful once again. As we adjust our traditions, relationships, routines, and thought patterns, we find peace and happiness after loss. Start the adjustment process today, for your emotional health!

©2014 by Denise W. Anderson. All rights reserved.

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23 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

It is never easy, is it my friend? But we learn, and we move on, and we always have the memories. Awesome message here, Denise.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, Billy. I appreciate your kindness.


Purpose Embraced profile image

Purpose Embraced 2 years ago from Jamaica

We all face losses in our lives, and it is never easy, whether it is death, divorce or a friend moving to another country. For example, the death of a loved one, produces deep emotional reactions to the loss. But a healthy support system is important to help the person cope, and adjust to the loss.

Thanks for sharing on this important issue of loss, Denise.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

You touched on the important issues to be dealt with after loss. One of my friend's mother used to keep setting the table for her daughter who was no longer there. She kept saying that she forgot. Thoughts, routines, traditions all need to be adjusted. Your article is very helpful. Voted Up!


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

The loss of a loved is never easy at the moment of weakness one can feel most helpless but in time it all gets back to life again moving on is the hardest an interesting hub.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Yes, Purpose Embraced. Everyone is touched by it at some time or another. The emotions solicited can be difficult and poignant. You are right in that having a support system is vital to coping in these types of situations. Thanks for reading and commenting.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks for sharing that example, MsDora. Habits are hard to break, especially those dealing with our everyday routines. It takes time and effort to make those adjustments, but the outcome is well worth it! I appreciate your comments.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

That is right, DDE, the loss of close family or friends leaves a big hole in our lives. Time is definitely required to make these adjustments. Thankfully, we are able to heal and move on. That is one of the great blessings of life. Thanks for stopping in and commenting.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

Hi denise, yes loss is such a hard thing to get over, I lost my best friend a month ago, my other close friend died three years ago, nightmare! but we do have to move on, and keeping to a routine really does help, nell


catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 2 years ago from the South

Loss brings so many emotions and situations that we sometimes never even expect. An important point is that it takes time...don't let anyone rush you or make you feel you have to be "over it" after a certain time has gone by. You need to grieve and adjust on your own schedule. Great article Denise!


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

It is never easy to come to terms with the loss of a loved one. But as they say, Time is the best healer and we human beings have amazing capacity to adjust to changing situations of life. And then we have to accept this as a part of life and move on.

Very nice and thoughtful hub! Thanks!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

How difficult that must have been, Nell, to loose two friends so close to you! My heart goes out to you! Going through the motions of daily life somehow keeps us moving forward, and things end up resolving themselves as time passes. Take care, and God bless!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

That's right, ChitrangadaSharan. When our loved ones pass away, somehow, it shakes our very foundations. We realize that at any time, it could be our turn, and we don't know if we are ready! We want to see our loved ones again, and hope and pray that we will, but are we really ready? Thank goodness we have the ability to adjust, and can move on with our lives as time passes. Take care and thanks for stopping by!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

It is those unexpected emotions that throw us off our equilibrium, catgypsy. They take us on a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, ins and outs, that seem to keep us reeling for a time! Everyone must grieve in their own way, and take the time that they need to work through the memories and feelings. Thanks for reading and commenting!


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

I am still adjusting to the loss of my parents and it has been over 20 years. It is a good thing to move on with positive mind set and to know that one day I will see them again in heaven.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

That is a great way to look at it teaches. When we realize that life will not be the same without them, we have to make changes. Finding peace and comfort in the knowledge that we have of life after death helps us to move on with positive feelings in spite of the difficulties. Thanks for sharing your feelings and experiences.


Sundeep Kataria profile image

Sundeep Kataria 2 years ago

Your style of writing is so unique, while reading your hubs I always feel that you are speaking to me what you have written.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

That is an interesting observation, Sundeep! I read them over repeatedly to make sure that the words flow smoothly and effortlessly. Perhaps in doing so, I infuse some of my own personality into it! Thanks for the compliment!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 7 months ago from Nashville Tn.

After 6 years I still tremble with pain, anger and grief for my beautiful son. My grandchildren were left homeless, confused and torn. The mother had abandoned my son and all four children years before their father's death. He died in the arms of his oldest boy, age 11. I wouldn't wish this situation on my worst enemy.

Thank you for your helpful hub Denise.

With gratitude,

Audrey


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 7 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

This is a tragedy of the utmost, to lose a son, and to have his children left with no parent! Your heart is still reeling from the grief! I am glad that you have found something helpful in what I have written, and hope that you and yours will be able to make the difficult adjustments that will continue as these precious children reach their teen and young adult years. I pray that God will give you strength!


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 7 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

I could not handle reading more than this one sad & grief-filled message in one day. This drains & weighs so heavily upon the heart. I'm so sorry for you, for all of us who grieve, that there simply is no magic wand, pill or potion....nothing to grab hold of to ease the pain.

Only time....the moments ticking by, day after day, year after years....even then it's true that healing comes to each of us in different ways at different times....and for some, perhaps never.

I can tell you I know...that I sincerely relate...that I feel your pain...and wish I could make it all disappear. The reality is that you and only you knows your own kind of pain. This is true for each of us.

But know that someone cares. Find comfort however you can.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 7 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks for your kind thoughts, Paula. Grief is one of the most difficult emotions we will ever experience in our lives. It takes a lot of time, and much hard work, to get through the transitions we must make when someone we love leaves us, whether in death or some other type of loss. We think that we are doing well, and then something unexpected triggers our emotions, and once again, we are missing our loved ones. We have to do it in our own time and in our own way. It will be different for everyone. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 7 months ago from Nashville Tn.

Thank you Denise. I appreciate your support and prayers.

Audrey

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