One of the hardest challenges life can present is the loss of a life partner. Grief is a small word, but it carries a lot of weight, and can completely change your world. There’s no one clear path back to wholeness: the road is different for everyone, and it is never an easy one. That said, there are definitive stages to the process, and there are some insights that can help you find your way through the darkness of loss. This two-part series focuses on helping yourself get through this difficult time.

 

Prepare For Reminders

For some people, certain holidays, anniversaries, and other occasions may be closely tied to memories of partners. If you know such an occasion is coming, make plans to take care of yourself in that time. Whether that means holing up for a Netflix binge, going out with friends, or taking a mini-vacation will depend on what you need. Unexpected reminders can also be very painful. Figure out what is the best way for you to cope, and be prepared.

Occupy Yourself

One way to help get through your grief is to immerse yourself in someone else’s world. Read, listen to audio books, or watch movies. Taking a class can also help. Basically, try to keep your brain occupied with something else.

Keep Moving Forward

There are no shortcuts through the grieving process, and there are no magic tricks. It’s a long, slow process of accepting your new reality, adjusting to it, and then taking control of your future. Grief may always be a burden you bear, but self-care will make you stronger, which will make that burden seem lighter. Over time, that burden will get lighter. And while it may never entirely go away, it will become easier and easier to carry.

Here is a powerful quote on the process:

As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life

Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”

 

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