It’s normal to feel grief after a loved one dies. In fact, grief can last for months or even years. However, there comes a time when continuing to grieve can keep you stuck and prevent you from living your own life. Finding ways to move forward is essential if you find yourself in this situation. Complicated grief describes mourning that lasts a considerable time and won’t subside. Let’s look at how a lack of resiliency can keep you stuck in complicated grief and how to move forward when this happens.
Lack of Resiliency During Grief
Part of grieving a loss is knowing that your life will never be the same. You’ve lost a relationship. Sitting with your grief for too long can make it easy to forget how to find your vision or hope.
Perhaps you’ve lost many things that are hard to get back in this life, including:
- Hope for the future
- Sense of direction
- Belief in God
- Family unit
- Parental figure
- Career or company-owned with a spouse who passed
- Feeling grounded
- Status as married or having a child
- Other relationships (because of putting up walls or having angry outbursts)
- Your identity as their loved one
But after a time spent actively grieving, you must choose to move forward. Without consciously choosing life, you will stay in a place of grief. Moving forward may feel uncomfortable, unnatural, or even painful, but you must take steps forward to continue with life.
The Widowhood Effect
When a loved one passes away, you can lose more than you know how to cope with. This overwhelming loss of coping skills is the definition of lacking resiliency. Losing your resiliency can be more dangerous than you think.
One typical case in which a loss of resiliency can cause death is “The Widowhood Effect.”
A 2008 NIH study with 370,000+ elderly married couples in the US found that within the first 3 months after one spouse died, the chance that their partner would also pass was between 30 and 90 percent.
Many theories abound about what causes the “Widowhood Effect,” but there is a consensus. When you lose a spouse, one thing is crucial. That one thing is social interaction.
If you’ve recently mourned the passing of your beloved partner, get out there and dance, even if that only means taking a walk with a neighbor today. Complicated grief therapy can involve living the life you have left and finding ways to engage with others.
Recognize that you have life left and find ways to see it as a gift. Express your thankfulness for the time you had with your spouse rather than only seeing the loss of their companionship.
Mourning is necessary, but so is getting out and finding distractions from the grief. Given time, it is possible to find new ways to define yourself and move forward with the life you have left. Living the rest of your life does not diminish the loss. It is merely the best way to cope with ongoing complicated grief.
Complicated Grief Therapy
Everyone’s grief journey is different, but consider whether you feel stuck in grief after a year of active bereavement.
You may need formal complicated grief therapy if you did not already actively express your pain and grieve your loss with friends and family (and possibly journaling about pain, prayers, grief counseling). Complicated grief therapy can help you feel the painful feelings of loss and express your sense of emotional pain.
If you see your family doctor with a pattern of grieving a loss for years, they may diagnose you with “Complicated Grief” or “Persistent Grief Syndrome.” The newest diagnosis is “Prolonged Grief Disorder,” “in DSM 5 and ICD11… In 2018 the World Health Organization approved a new diagnosis of Prolonged Grief Disorder.” (1)
This prolonged or complicated grief disorder often occurs when individuals get stuck in a pattern of grieving and do not choose to move forward with their own lives. Choosing to stop actively grieving and move into a new pattern can feel uncomfortable. However, if you have already participated in active grieving for a long time, consider finding new goals and visions for your life.
Looking at Your Future
There are more ways to move forward than you can imagine. Start by closing your eyes and thinking about the things that used to make you happy as hobbies. Think of what defined you as an individual before the loss. How did you express your abilities in activities?
Consider these questions:
- Is it time to move to a new home?
- Do you need to do some spring cleaning or get a new design makeover?
- Is it a good time to return to school or find a new career?
- Personal grooming issues may need a look: new haircut or color? Trying different makeup or buying some new clothing can help you express your sense of style at this point in your life.
- Look at part-time work if you’re retired.
- Volunteer work of some kind (hospitals, libraries, assisted living homes, schools)
- Find new friends through clubs or memberships, lectures, meetings, etc.
- Try a new type of exercise at your local YMCA
- Maybe you’ve let your nutrition fall by the wayside. A visit to a nutritionist or drawing up new meal plans could help you feel better and move forward.
- Other ideas could be working toward a new degree online or studying a subject that interested you in the past. You could take piano, voice, or guitar lessons.
- Joining a MeetUp group could bring a new hobby along with new friends. MeetUp groups are for almost everything, including hiking, biking, kayaking, quilting, career groups, networking, etc.
Consider a grief counselor or a grief counseling group if you still feel stuck after getting out there and meeting others for fun activities. Grief counselors can help you understand why you have not let yourself move forward from continual sadness. They may help you uncover emotions you need to work through that you have not considered.
We Can Help
At Renaissance Funeral Home and Crematory, we focus on the details so you can spend time with your family and friends after a loss. Grief is complicated enough without facing the difficulties of planning a funeral, visitation, disposition of the body, and getting death certificates. It’s just about impossible to do it all yourself.
At Renaissance, we create beautiful and memorable occasions to spend time grieving with your loved ones. This process of grieving together can help everyone see their loss in a new light. Often, being with loved ones after a loss is a healing balm for your soul.
If you need help making plans after a loss, let our funeral directors lead you through the funeral planning process and make everything easier for you and your grieving family. Contact us today to get started and find out how we can help.