A person’s ability to adjust to life after loss is widely considered a fundamental part of normal human development. When you are faced with life changing circumstances, such as the sudden death of a loved one or the dissolution of a significant relationship, it is a rather difficult milestone to reach.
In the midst of situations like these, it can appear impossible to regain any sense of normality. During this difficult time, it is important to remember that grief is a personal journey and not a set of steps to master.
According to conventional wisdom, your journey through the grieving process is supposed to mirror the ‘Five Stages of Grief’ theory which was popularised by renowned psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969. The five stages of grief are:
The theory is a general guide, so it’s important to remember that the grief experience is entirely unique to the individual and doesn’t follow a set pattern. Your experience and recovery period will vary widely from anyone else’s. Try not to concern yourself with how you are expected to feel, rather, move forward at your own pace.
There is no right or wrong way to experience grief. Therefore, you may go through the steps outlined above in a sequential fashion, a different order, or not at all. The way in which you experience and express grief depends largely upon your personality, life experiences, faith and the nature of your loss. Healing from loss is a gradual, often painstaking process, so whatever your experience, be patient and allow the healing process to take its course.
Unlike every day stress that you face weekly e.g. becoming stuck in a traffic jam or arriving late for a meeting, the effects of losing a loved one or a relationship break-up cannot be absolved by any coping mechanism you employ. Coping mechanisms take various forms, such as denying the event has taken place or focusing on the positive aspects of the situation. These are a safeguard, designed to temporarily protect your emotional well being.
Although coping mechanisms provide emotional security, they cannot be relied upon as a permanent solution to the grief you are experiencing. As you start healing, you will discover your own way of coping and with time, reflection and patience, you will recover and find joy where there was once only pain.
Do not expect to immediately readjust to life as though nothing has changed, as personal tragedy snatches a part of your soul. Despite this, you’ll find as you make peace with the situation, you will be ready and even eager to move on with life. In order to do so, you must accept your current circumstance (i.e. that you have to continue on without your loved one, etc). Unfortunately, this is far easier to say than do.
Understanding that circumstances can never return to where they once were is essential in leaving the familiar behind (i.e. memories of your loved one) and venturing into the unknown. Your journey to readjustment is filled with self-discovery, redefinition and soul searching. Do not attempt to hurry this process along, as those who do will never truly leave their grief in the past where it belongs.