The journey through grief is a personal one. I can’t say for certain that loss changes everybody because it depends on so many varying factors. What I would suggest is that for most people, change is inevitable.
When I talk of change, experience tells me this is more commonly about a change in the mind rather than changes to our physical being – although for some people the latter may also be the case. My first Grey hair appeared after I lost my mum. Perhaps there was a link.
More significantly, was what changed on the inside that I noticed. It felt like a rug had been pulled out from underneath me. After coming through the initial trauma, I realised I had no role in the world. My life role as ‘daughter’ to both my wonderful parents had disappeared. Who was I?
So it makes sense that we can experience changes in our relationships with others, changes to how we view the world, as well as changes within ourselves. There can be a loss of our old-self, a loss of purpose and direction, a loss of self-definition or image – the list is long.
Loss somehow puts a marker in your life and you no longer feel the person you were before. But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
I believe that change is required as part of a healthy grieving process. How it changes you doesn’t happen overnight. It’s more of a gradual change. It’s about accepting that loss will leave a scar and life will be different. It’s far easier on yourself to consider creating a “new normal” rather than desperately clinging to what once was. Parts of you are going to change – and that’s ok.
Maybe you can relate to some of the changes that took place for me:
I’m more anxious.
Anxiety is an old friend of mine. We’ve been acquainted since I was 18. Loss took my anxiety to a different level. Since losing my parents, I’ve had two complete meltdowns where I allowed anxiety to take the reins while I checked out. I didn’t know true depression until loss. So now depression and I are also friends. In all of this, what I’ve gained is a greater respect for my fragility and a real understanding of the importance of self-care and self-awareness. This is the reason I’m always banging the mindfulness drum. It helps me to graciously host my anxiety and depression but make sure they don’t overstay their welcome.
I appreciate life fully.
I never really thought about how finite life is when I was in my 20’s. What 20-something-year-old does? So after losing my parents, I was like “shit, you mean people don’t just grow old and die?”. It was a painful process of acceptance. But the benefit of this is I’m so much more connected to my spiritual side and I can see the beauty in most things. I’m also very choosy about how I spend my time and who with – “no” is easy for me to say if it doesn’t serve me. Practising daily gratitude has helped me to focus on life in a way that feels meaningful after loss.
I understand resilience.
I’ve always been resilient, I just never knew it. In my grief, I used to think that resilience was about putting on a brave face and being stoic. Through no fault of my own, I was taught to believe that resilience was about outer strength. Then I realised it’s not. It’s about inner strength – our ability to ride the grief waves and flex to accommodate our needs in any given moment. I recognise I am adaptable and I have everything I need to rise to challenges. I no longer feel the need to show up as somebody who’s coping when I’m not.
I feel wiser.
There’s the type of wisdom that comes with life experience. Then there’s the type of wisdom that comes with life’s shit. The wisdom I’ve gained after loss includes everything I know to be true in this article. Enough said.
I have a deeper purpose.
I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t experienced loss, I wouldn’t be doing what I love. I’d probably be pursuing a high flying career in the hope that my parents would feel super proud – god bless them. Sure, I’d feel accomplished but would I feel fulfilled? Probably not. I now know what it is to use goals to fulfil my passion and purpose rather than chase goals that will make me feel like I’ve achieved. I guess my new found appreciation for life made me feel like I wanted to contribute authentically to this world, rather than the focus being on how much money I earn or how high up the career ladder I can climb. Loss bought me to doing what I love – helping others in a meaningful way.
I’m sure I could list tons more about this. The point is, we don’t stop living because of loss. It’s just that our approach to living will change. It re-defines us rather than fundamentally changes who we are at the core. And that’s a good thing.