Last week I wrote that
There are some very basic things to remember when you face a painful loss. These “rules” apply whether we are speaking of loss through the death of someone close to us or the loss of anything else in life that causes us sadness.
There are three things that you will need to experience before you can begin to recover from the pain of your grief.
I call them the Three R’s and over the next few submissions I will try to break each down for you so that from here on, when I speak of acknowledging and processing your feelings you will know what I’m talking about.
The First R is to realize. Realize that the person who has died is actually gone.
The second R is to recognize. Recognize the significance of this loss for you and your life.
The third R is to rebuild, or putting your life together without the person who has died.
I apologize for the repetition but coming to understand the Three R’s, what they mean for you and how they will come to help you manage your loss, is critical.
It can be very difficult to find yourself grieving over a loss that does not involve a death.
Death at least brings some attention and sympathy with it. Some of life’s other losses are much “quieter” and get little or no attention. They are therefore difficult to manage.
It doesn’t matter whether we are speaking about the end of a significant relationship as in the case of separation or divorce, or the loss of a job through retirement or termination.
It doesn’t matter if we are considering the loss of your neighborhood or friends because for some reason you had to move.
It doesn’t matter if you are saddened over the loss of children leaving home or going to school for the first time. Or if your sadness is due to the loss of youth as you age or face illness, or the limitations associated with growing old.
All that matters is that you are left saddened, empty, confused and alone because something that has been a big part of your life is no longer there.
In this case, the first R is Realize. Realize that what you are missing, what is making you sad, is actually gone.
Again, this sounds odd but if you have lost a love relationship for instance, through separation or divorce, it will take you some time to actually grasp that what you were used to, maybe for many years, is gone.
You may still be connected to that relationship and you may still look for the familiar parts of it in your daily routine. It can take a long time to truly grasp that a marriage is over. You may find yourself looking for your former partner or even going to the places that you frequented together hoping to somehow recapture what you had and what you may now long for.
This is especially true when one of the members of the union did not want the relationship to end.
By way of example beyond divorce or separation lets talk about retirement.
In some cases the person who has just retired may have gone to the same place and done the same job for many years. That routine, the people they associated with and the familiar aspects of the job now gone, made up an essential part of who the retired person was. When they left their position, they left all of those familiar parts of their life behind.
These losses can take sometime to realize. The retired person will still wake at the same time, still go through the same motions, at least psychologically, each day preparing for work, and yet this work is finished.
It is very difficult to go from something to nothing.
I was married and now I am not.
I had a job and now I do not.
I lived in the same house for years and now I live somewhere else.
I have associated with the same friends for years and now they are distant.
I cared for my child at home for years and now a school is caring for them.
I ran marathons for years and now I can’t manage that any more.
These changes are very hard to comprehend. We become attached to our routines. We count on them and in many ways they give us life and define us.
Coming to realize that these things are gone and permanently changed is very difficult. What is even more troubling, is that in these areas and others where there has not been a death, we are very likely to receive little sympathy, empathy or understanding at all.
While you struggle to comprehend the life loss you are faced with, those who you know may be acting as though all is well, or in some cases they may be suggesting that a celebration is in order.
Realizing that something very important to you is gone from your life is cause for reflection and grief.
Take it in and expect that while you try to come to terms with the simple reality of the loss, you may find yourself confused and acting out of sorts.
Expect to still consider yourself in yesterday’s pattern
You might stop at the bakery and order the sweets that your love enjoyed to eat. You might find yourself driving “ home” when home is now somewhere else.
You might, still find yourself rushing to get ready for work and listening closely to the weather so that you can decide how much extra time to give yourself for the commute.
You might stop at the garden shop wondering which flowers you are going to plant in your back yard in the spring, even though you now live in an apartment and there is no back yard in which to plant.
You might find yourself speaking with your child who is in the back seat of the car, even though in fact, they are not there. They began school a few days ago.
None of these “ mistakes” make you crazy, rather they all speak to the depth and significance of your life loss.
Allow for adjustment, and give yourself the chance to adapt to the loss and the shock that you are now experiencing.
The first R is Realize. Realize that what you are missing, what is making you sad, is actually gone.