Starting over after a death is overwhelming and may feel impossible.
First, the shock of the loss happens and then there is denial that the loss is real especially if there was no warning.
Our whole lives change in an instant and all of the hopes and dreams we had for the future are over.
How can we go on?
But we must and we will.
Here are 11 steps on How to Start Over After a Loss.
1 – Do One Hard Thing a Day.
Eleanor Roosevelt said it best when she said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
Set a goal to accomplish the hard and scary things that are in front of you and slowly, you will start rebuilding your life.
It can be something small or something big depending on how you feel. But little by little you will gain confidence in the new you every single day.
2 – Don’t Ignore Your Grief.
Grieve the loss. Don’t ignore your pain. Let yourself experience the pain of grief.
I know from experience it is easier to try to ignore the pain and just bottle up your emotions but the only way to really overcome grief is to go through it.
The person who avoids grieving could eventually suffer from some form of depression or even from physical problems. Fully experiencing the pain - most often through tears - provides genuine relief.
A grief journal is a great way to pay attention and manage your grief. Use the safe space to write down how you are feeling. It is also a great way to see how far you have come in the process.
3 – Find People You Can Trust and Rely On.
Your life will change after your loved one is gone. New responsibilities and even a different social role may come up. You will need to be open to adjust to this new life.
Focus the emotional energy you would have spent on your loved one and find another way to use it. It could be getting a pet, finding new friends or reconnecting with family and friends.
Old friends who knew your loved one can help you remember them and give you permission to rebuild your life. New friends give you a future and let you start to begin again.
You will never forget your loved one but you can reinvest that love in another way so that you are not lonely.
If that is not available to you find a trusted counselor so that you don’t have to handle this enormous loss alone.
4 – Find a Place to Go for Refuge.
Go to a physical place in your life that has been a source of strength and inspiration.
For some it could be a room in their house. Others it could be the mountains or the beach. It could also be a form of exercise like running, hiking or yoga.
Wherever it may be find a place that creates peace inside you. A place where you can start to dream and get in touch with the part of you that has been grieving.
Once you find that place, protect it and go there when you need a break from the sadness and grief.
5 – Choose to Be Happy.
The truth about starting over is that it doesn’t just happen on its own. Your next chapter in life, your second firsts, won’t just happen without any effort.
You have to decide that you want to be happy and you need to be an active participant in finding that happiness.
6 – Find a New Way to Live.
In some ways all the changes can be overwhelming. But that is change that you don’t have control over. Start changing the things you need to change to be happy and that you can control.
It can be little things like changing your laundry detergent or it could be big things like changing your job.
Start a new hobby or learn a new skill that you have always wanted to try. Get tickets for that concert that you have wanted to see or start saving for that cruise you've always wanted to go on.
These changes will help you take control back to your life and help you find a new way of living.
7 – Be Ready to Risk It All Again.
In order to start over, you have to be willing to risk experiencing loss again.
This is a part of living life and starting over. It won’t be easy but you have to be willing to make mistakes and shed some tears. This will help you find out who you truly are and what you are made of.
But the risks will be worth it.
8 – Break the Habits of Grief.
Crying every night in bed in the darkness may become your new normal. But it isn’t healthy long term. It becomes a coping mechanism for your grief.
Grief creates habits that don’t help us long term. We may find ways to dull the pain through unhealthy habits like food, alcohol or even television. But those are just quick fixes.
We have to choose to live again and break those patterns of grief and get out of the survival zone.
9 – Be Grateful.
Remember the things that you do still have in your life. Notice the beautiful parts that are still there.
Sometimes it is hard. And it takes a LOT of work but it will help you to remember how to live and to be thankful for what you do have left.
10 - Cherish your Memories.
Find a way to memorialize your loved one.
Start your own Memory Page and begin collecting memories of them. There is nothing more satisfying than learning something new and realizing what an impact your loved one had on other people. It connects them back to you in a new way.
Display treasured photos of a deceased loved one in prominent places in your home. It can help you adjust gradually to the loss.
Keep their belongings together and pull them out when you need a walk down memory lane.
If you find yourself drowning in grief during these times, set a timer and allow yourself time to go to your grief place. When time is up, do something different so you don’t stay in the darkness. As time goes on, lessen the amount of time you give yourself to stay in that place.
11 – Decide that You are Enough.
Remind yourself that you are capable and you can do this. This may be a mantra that you say every day for the first little while but it will work. You will have to leave behind the “shoulda, woulda coulda’s” and start thinking of the future beyond the loss.
All of these steps will help you rebuild a life and to be able to start over after a loss.