How Grief Changes Us: Forever & For Now

Grief is change. It changes our life, our routine, our plan and right along with it, grief changes us.  Change is hard under the best of circumstances (new job, a wedding, a baby), but the changes we don’t ask for can be intolerable. Some of these changes will be forever and long lasting, but some will only be part of the acute and early stages of grieving (whatever that timeline looks like for you). And some of these changes aren’t necessarily all bad.Changes

Losing a loved one is just about the worst thing that can happen to any of us. But the feeling of losing ourselves can make a tough time even harder to cope. Because if we don’t feel like ourselves, what strengths and skills can we possibly draw upon?

This subject has come up in our forums quite a bit lately. Following the grievers’ stories, as they talk about who they lost, when it happened, and how it happened, the same words punctuate each sad story…”I will never be the same again”.

This is one of the terrible surprises in loss. The change, too much change, that’s all happening at once. And complicating matters is the search, hope or expectation that things could ever be the same again.

While it’s a totally natural and very understandable part of the process, it’s also the most futile task of grieving: pining for things to go back to the way they were, or to expect ourselves to be the same person after we’ve lost someone we love.

A better approach may be to try and understand (and possibly even embrace at some point) all the ways grief changes us…for now and forever:

HOW GRIEF CHANGES US FOR NOW: 

  • changes in sleep, eating, and overall energy
  • personality changes like being more irritable, less patient, or no longer having the tolerance for other people’s “small” problems
  • forgetfulness, trouble concentrating and focusing
  • becoming more isolated, either by choice or circumstances
  • feeling like an outcast
  • relationship changes with family and friends as they react to the “new” us
  • feeling more anxious, afraid or fearful for the future as we wonder what’s next or where we go from here, or waiting for the other shoe to drop

So if we say these changes are “for now”, when exactly can a griever expect to change back? Here’s where it gets tricky. As stated before, no one should expect to go back to who they were before their loved one died. These losses shape, change, and mold us like few other things in life can. But those fundamental parts of who we are, the focus we once had, the organization, the patience…those things tend to come back with patience, self-care, and time.

Those in the early stages of grief will find this hard to believe but I’ve seen it happen over and over and over. The veil that lifts, that one day where a griever wakes up and feels maybe just a little bit “better”.

This isn’t to say that they aren’t still grieving. You can be crying every day and still be doing better, as strange as that may seem. The hope is to again see things like focus, and ability to remember birthdays, and where you parked the car, to return.

HOW GRIEF CHANGES US FOREVER:

  • most grievers will forever feel that a part of them is missing – every day will have a void where they wish their loved one could be
  • many grievers will carry at least some part of the trauma that surrounds even “expected” loss and feel a little broken or wounded in some way
  • for some, a fundamental change in how they perceive the fairness of life

Yet most grievers I speak to wouldn’t have it any other way. No one wants to experience loss, of course. Anyone who has lost a loved one would trade their new life for the old one- the life that had their loved one in it. But perhaps that’s why some of the forever changes are the ones we hold on to. As a way to honor and remember the love and life we shared.

While it’s hard to talk about any good that could come out of loss, and most grievers would never want any part of their loss to be presented with the old “silver lining” cliche, there are other changes a griever can experience.

And unlike those listed above, they aren’t all bad:

  • opportunity to feel closer to others, especially those friends or family who have provided especially good support
  • new friendships that may develop because of loss – a coworker or neighbor who unexpectedly reached out, or connections made in a support group
  • no longer sweating the small stuff, having a deeper understanding of what really matters
  • becoming more compassionate and understanding to those around us
  • the way loss can so totally break us so that we have no choice but to rebuild from the bottom up and “fix” some things along the way
  • the loss of a loved one can show us a strength, resilience, and independence we may not have known we have. It can create opportunities for us to surprise ourselves with the things we can do, and the things we can endure

I’ve had many grievers talk about their life before loss. And many have shared similar stories about a friend who may have suffered a loss before them. They’ll say now, “I had no idea what she was going through” and they’ll talk about how badly they feel as they look back and see that they too had offered the well-intentioned but empty condolences. One thing they also always say is, “but that will never happen again”. Because for better or worse, they will never again be someone who doesn’t understand or doesn’t know how to help.

While we’d never choose to be an ambassador to grief, we can choose (in time) to embrace the roles we’ve been given. So that for now, and forever, we can be someone who can help another walk this long and painful path. And perhaps we’ll find the chance to grow and heal right along with them…

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Whether talking about changes for now or forever, loss becomes a very important part of who we are. We just never want it to be the ONLY thing we are.

To connect with those who understand, to find companionship, tools and healing, visit us today at www.griefincommon.com.

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “How Grief Changes Us: Forever & For Now”

  1. This post was just what I needed. I thought that it was just me who was stuck here. In the I’m lost with out you
    Stage. Cant seems to find a way pass this. Thought eventually I’d rebuild my life.. As I know he would want me to. He’d say let go.. Live your life.. No regrets.. Even knowing that I still can’t let him go. I’ve gotten better at being alone.. And can make decisions and be independent. But I still think of him and talk to him everyday. Some days it brings peace to me and other days it crushes me.. Glad to know that it all normal that you just don’t clear your mind and start a new life without

  2. Thank you so much for creating this much needed web site. I lost my husband 5 weeks ago. We adored each other and were married over 44 years. His health was not good for the last 10 years and especially the last two; I was his caregiver. He had been in and out of the hospital, but overcame severe illnesses and always came back home until the last time. I may have been in denial, but I expected him to get well and come back home once again. I am devastated over the loss of my darling angel, and I am searching for ways to deal with this overwhelming grief.

  3. I lost my mam two years ago, she died, suddenly & unexpectedly at home, my dad & myself were there. I was working from home & my dad discovered her in bed (she had had a viral infection). I gave her chest compressions until a neighbour took over….. horrendous. I knew she was gone. Then after the dust settled & I went back to work I was made redundant from my job less than two weeks back… that was weird. Got married the following year (Sept 2018) – that was weird without her.

    Last week I finally got myself a job after looking hard the last 6or so months (in a lucky position that I was able to be off for so long). Weird thing is that Ive found myself so emotional & scared at the changes the last couple of days. I really think its grief popping its head back up & it’s knocking my confidence & making me 2nd guess myself. I don’t like it at all. Crying over stupid stuff & then getting annoying with myself. Sorry am now just venting & waffling…. to my point this article helped me realize its all par for the course & I should just ride the emotional wave, Im still in here somewhere…. it does get easier a little but sometimes smacks you when you aren’t expecting it. It takes lots of time…

  4. Thank you very much for this helpful website.
    I find that I have changes to my sleep pattern.
    I feel as though I am not secure. I cannot really sleep or feel relaxed. My husband passed away suddenly November 2014.
    Thanksgiving this year is November 28th it will be the date of my husband’s passing. It will be five years but it feels like yesterday.
    We shared 44 years. I miss my soulmate
    so much. I still cry from time to time.
    One night I made barbecued chicken, the minute I saw the tiny brush for the sauce I started crying, I said to myself that it was not the brush that made me cry, it was the rush of emotions, memories of my husband using that little brush when he barbecued. So many memories. I feel that I am trying hard to make it through each day. I carry on and people think that I am doing great, little do they know.
    Grief changes us, things will never be the same.

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