We always talk about the regret a griever may have leading up to their loss – did I do enough, did I love enough, could I or should I have done more?
But plenty of grievers struggle just as much with the decisions they make after their loss. And let’s face it, without their loved one there to help with these choices, and as a person already facing the mental deficits (inability to concentrate or focus) that grief brings – “mistakes” are going to happen.
Some big, some small.
The good news is there are answers in these “mistakes”. And you’ll notice that I’ll continually put the word mistakes in quotes as I believe the things we regret and wish we could change will tell us more about what we are searching for and what we really need than we may realize. At a time when we’re looking for answers of what do to, maybe it’s our “mistakes” that will hold the answers.
But first, some of the things we may regret after loss:
- Moving – this isn’t always a choice of course. But for some, the house may feel too big, too quiet, too sad. And so moving away from a home once shared with the deceased feels like a way of moving forward…until it doesn’t. Because once the dust settles and the boxes are unpacked, there the griever sits in a house that may still feel too big, too quiet and too sad.
- Relationships – those who have lost a partner may decide to venture into dating at some point. The search for someone to spend time with is no easy thing and for any number of reasons, it just may not work out, leaving the griever to regret having tried it at all. Also worth considering are the times a griever ends a relationship they already had (either with a friend or romantic partner) because they feel this person wasn’t supportive enough as they coped.
- Changing Jobs – working is not optional for everyone, that goes without saying, but a particular job held during and following loss may suddenly feel too demanding. Maybe the work no longer seems to matter, or the petty office politics grate and irritate the griever in a way they no longer have the patience for. While neither of these would be a bad reason to leave a place of work, there can be a reality that follows. New work can be hard to find, or a new job may not be much better. Or perhaps the quiet of being at home all the time will only to the loneliness and solitude that so often accompanies grief.
- Pets – our pets can provide great comfort in loss. For some grievers, they are the reason to get up and get dressed in the morning, or the one thing to look forward to when coming home. But for someone who has recently had a loss, acquiring a new pet may be something they later regret. A new animal in the home takes a time, energy and attention that a lot of grievers may not feel they have to give, and some may be left to wonder if they got a pet too soon.
- Misc. – Okay, so I’m not trying to be a lazy writer here, but isn’t there just a million other things to regret after loss? Cleaning out our loved one’s stuff, too much, too soon? Or maybe having sold their car? Perhaps we regret the funeral or memorial, wishing we had done things differently to honor our loved one? Maybe there was a choice to skip a holiday or a trip or an outing with a friend, and we regret not having gone instead? The griever is already swirling with the “should’s” and the second-guessing leading up to their loss, so it makes perfect sense that every decision after could later be questioned too.
What’s important to realize is that when grieving a loss it’s hard to find any place that feels right. Most grievers don’t feel “right” in their own skin after loss, so it only stands to reason that the house, the job, the relationship, the new pet, or just about any other decision, may not feel right either.
Perhaps these “mistakes” are actually just a reflection of the searching a griever will do as they try to move forward. As they try to see where they now fit, and to see what, if anything, feels “right” in the days following loss.
The problem can be, in an effort to shed this grieving skin it’s possible to be almost impulsive. To do too much too soon…to change too much of the familiar at a time already filled with so much change.
I always say that loss is loss, but loss is also change. This new life is so much to get used to and in an effort to feel better, a griever may inadvertently add to that more change than they can handle.
Rather than feeling regret, or spending more time second guessing any choices that have been made, we would be better served to recognize how every messy thing that has happened since our loss is just a part of the process…that making these “mistakes” is actually a sign of our growth, and our progress. There will be missteps along the way, but recognize that at a time where so many grievers are feeling defeated, deflated, and disheartened, your “mistakes” are a symbol of your strength, your courage, and your perseverance.
If we wonder what it is we’re really looking for in these decisions, these mistakes, this regret…it’s simple. You are simply trying to move forward, and to figure out who to be, and what to do next. Just as your loved one would have wanted for you.
And just remember, mistakes only come from effort. And effort always comes from hope…
Only the griever understands what it means to falter after loss. We are here to encourage grievers and to validate this very surreal experience of loss. Find others to connect with and know you are not alone: www.griefincommon.com.
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