When a catastrophic loss happens, your sense of self, your lifestyle and everything you know is thrown into chaos. It is as if the jigsaw which is your life has been swept from the table, tossed into the air and is in chunks and pieces all over the carpet. You lose trust in the world and everything you took for granted. You lose confidence in life and in yourself. You lose your innocence.
This article was written for us by our guest writer Wendy, who has lost her husband, her brother and both parents.
You feel both lonely and alone. This is frightening. It is difficult to cope with all the decisions on your own. The burden is heavy when there is no one to carry it but you. Loss changes the dynamics of everything and you have to recognise and adjust to these changes. This is not easy and takes effort by you and time. You need to build a new life for the new you. You have to adjust within the family/home/street/club/country to the new situation.
You must accept that your loss is forever. This is hard but true. To feel the loss of someone you had to have them first. Remember that many people have never felt joy as you have done.
Other thoughts and memories may not be so pleasant. You will often wonder if you did all you could to help. Did you always do the right things, if you did the wrong thing, if you could have done things better, why you did not do things differently? This is normal. Everyone does this. You cannot change what has happened but you can put it in perspective by talking to those who know and understand.
A support group is terrific here. If you can tell yourself you did your best in the circumstances that is as good as it gets.
You have to accept reality and deal with it as best you can. You need to nurture remaining relationships even if they have changed and you need to find new friends and activities to replace the lost ones. This takes courage and time and effort on your part.
Some ideas for activities to get you out and about.
Unpalatable as it is you have to recognise and accept reality. You have a choice. You can accept reality and move on to building a new life as best you can or you can give up. You have to accept what has happened but this does not mean surrender to misery. Your new life will be different. However different does not mean better or worse but it does mean things will not be the same.
I am now a single person. I have to take care of everything myself, pay all the bills, make all the decisions, get on the roof in the rain at midnight to unblock the gutters, drive myself everywhere and beware of the RBT. I have to take care of my own safety. I have to learn to walk into social situations alone. This can be daunting.
I remember trying to avoid a golf club dinner but the Support Group encouraged me to go. We talked about what I would wear, about having my hair done, my perfume and about how they would all think of me at that time as I made my entrance. I recall going up the steps of the club with my knees shaking and my stomach churning but an invisible force pushing me in the small of my back to ensure I made it. I was woken by four phone calls very early the next morning to see how I fared.
You need to make the effort to get out and into life otherwise after a short while life moves on without you. Everyone needs to get on with their lives even children and grandchildren. They can help and support for a while but then they have to move on. This is the one life you have so you have the choice to go under or get up and get on with a new life. This seems cruel but it is true.
How do you do this? There are some basics which are important. These things are confirmed by each member of the support group I belong to.
Look back on what you have coped with and see how strong you are. In the eye of the storm you just stagger through what has to be done. It is only later you recall what actually happened and can recognise what you really managed. I found that many months after the death of my husband I recalled his actual death very vividly as if I were watching myself doing what I had to do. I was amazed at how I coped. I realised the enormity of what I had coped with and suddenly realised what I had done.
Do not hesitate to praise yourself for what you have done. Recognise these achievements and reward yourself. No one else is going to, are they? You have shown courage and strength. Give yourself a pat on the back right now.
Talking to people who are experiencing grief as you are also helps. The Support Group is the one forum where everything is accepted, shared and understood. In these meetings you can really let everything out in safety and confidence. Having such an opportunity is of inestimable benefit. It is also hard work as you have to be honest, express your emotions, and admit your fears and dark side. From such honesty comes healing for grief and loss, as well as growth. You begin to know what is best for you and that you can go and do it.
This is your new life, the only life you will ever get so to make it the best life you can. Only you can do that.
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