Turn on the evening news and within moments, a scene of devastation from somewhere around the world will be broadcast. Images of tragic accidents, natural disasters, and violent attacks grip our hearts with fear, sorrow, and uncertainty as we grapple with reports of destruction. We empathize with those seeking to recover and rebuild.
When someone you love leaves your life, whether by separation or divorce, death, illness, or other tragedy, devastation becomes a personal experience. Our hearts can become a wasteland of ruins as we try to make sense of the loss and come to terms with what it means for our future. The devastation can be both physical and emotional, as we not only seek to repair the damage that may have been done to our souls and esteem, but we may also be seeking to rebuild households, routines, maybe even finances.
What can we do in the aftermath of a lost love? Understand first that healing and recovery is a process. Just as a community wiped out by a hurricane will not be rebuilt in day, accept that it will take time, patience, and, yes, effort to move on, to grow forward. Give yourself time, space, and permission to grieve the loss. Listen to your self-dialogue and weed out unhealthy thoughts you may be having about yourself and your situation. Negative, irrational thoughts can keep you stuck. And watch out for bitterness; if allowed to take root, the process of growth and healing becomes more complex and the pain you are experiencing will only worsen. Take care of yourself. Surround yourself with people who are supportive. And know that it is okay to step away from people who are not set on helping you move forward.
Loss can be a life changing event that leaves us with feelings of grief or rejection. At a minimum, we may struggle to understand ‘why,’ seeking a place to lay blame. At worse, we can act out in anger and say or do things that we later regret. Or perhaps we fold up into ourselves, internalizing feelings of sorrow and hiding inner turmoil and pain. It is important to find healthy ways of expressing your emotions and safe places to do so. Having a friend or support group or professional therapist or counselor to whom to turn may help with the healing process.
Recognize that healing is a process. It is normal to find that grieving a loss can occur in stages* including:
- Denial (the initial shock)
- Anger (the growing rage)
- Bargaining (the hope that there is a way to change it)
- Depression (the sinking realization that the loss is definite)
- Acceptance (the opportunity to grow and redefine yourself in the face of the loss)
You may or may not experience all of these stages. There is no correct order; you may bounce back and forth and forth and back along the grieving continuum. However, please know that acceptance, growth, and moving forward is possible.
You are a person of value, beauty, and worth. In spite of your circumstance, regardless of who is or isn’t there, the world needs your presence, your gifts, your impact. Moving forward, learning to trust again, feeling your own sense of purpose, and holding on to a belief that tomorrow will be beautiful, allows the world to benefit from your aura and gives you the experience of finding fulfillment, peace, and joy.
Loving again is possible.
You can create meaning after – or even because of – a loss.
You can move forward.
You can move on.
*Learn more about the stages of grief.*
This article is intended for general education purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional counseling or medical care. If you are interested in seeking professional counseling, please contact The Stone Foundation by clicking here, or by phone at 410-296-2004.
Leslie J. Sherrod, MSW, LGSW, is an outreach social worker at a hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. She also has experience providing psychotherapy to children, teens, adults, and families. She is the author of several inspirational novels, including Without Faith, Losing Hope, Secret Place, and Like Sheep Gone Astray. Visit her website at www.LeslieJSherrod.com for more information.
Facebook: Leslie J. Sherrod; Twitter: @lesliejsherrod