Losing a life partner changes many things, including our own identity. Are you a different person today? How have you changed and why?
As we all know, change is the one constant in our lives and there’s good change and bad and then there’s all the changes that losing our life partner brings.
Sometimes when we experience a major or unexpected life change, we have difficulty adapting to it and long for the life we had before. We may be angry or resentful that we can’t regain our old world and have difficulty letting go of what was.
We may even resent others who seem to have what we don’t or try to quickly replace what we’ve lost, only to find that we can’t substitute someone else for the person who is gone.
How do we move forward when we find ourselves caught between what was, what is and what might be?
First, we must come to terms with the reality that our lives have changed permanently, and there’s no going back. That sounds simple but can be a slow process, as gradually day by day we learn to accept and live with the change. Second, we need to understand that it is natural to want to move forward with our lives, despite the loss or change and to give ourselves permission to be happy again. There’s no timeline for this process, but at some point, in the journey, we must accept that we can’t hold onto a past life that no longer exists. It will become necessary to face the reality of our situation and accept it, which is difficult and painful.
Coming to this point over time, we begin to realize that rather than being an adversary to conquer, grief can become our lifelong companion. As grief slowly becomes a part of our lives, no matter what our future holds, we will never forget or replace our person; they will travel through time with us, a part of who we are, always. Eventually though, as time goes on, we understand the before and after of our situations and slowly turn our minds to accepting or “surrendering” to this different life.
It’s possible to see a glimmer of hope appear as you embrace new experiences, experiment with new ideas or develop new friendships.
It takes time, but after a while a different life, not better, but different, may start to take shape.
How do we work through all these steps along the way? Many people say the process of sharing our grief, talking with others who understand loss and listening to others who have their own stories to tell is a good first step. Grief is lonely; companionship of like-minded people is comforting and healing. Many agencies and bereavement groups, offer grief counselling as well as, community organizations, religious groups or private counselling. Of course, we hope you’ll think about joining Widowed Friends – a community of widows and widowers who together are working to rebuild and reshape our lives after the loss of a life partner.
What we’ve learned in eight years with Widowed Friends, is sharing the journey lightens the burden and being with others who understand and who also are trying to accept the reality of their different lives helps us on our journeys.
We know finding your “after” takes time and struggle, but we know too that it is possible. A “different” life can bring some happiness, new opportunities and of course, new friends as you find your way to your “Chaper 2” new life.