Each one of us faces loss in our lives at some time. The type of loss varies, and how we respond to it does, as well. Each of us are individuals and our life paths will throw loss our way. My response to a loss may not be the same as someone else experiencing that same loss. But, no matter what loss we face, there are ten things we can do that will help improve our situation. This list is not in any type of rank order- it’s just ten things that we all must do when we experience a major loss.
Get clear about what you want.
This is not the time to make a major change without being clear on why you want to do it. Change may be good, but it may also hinder our healing process. Before making any decisions about how to proceed after experiencing loss, take the time to sit down and evaluate what you want out of life and why you want it. You’re less likely to make a decision that will lead to regret.
Spend time understanding your thoughts.
It’s common to have negative thoughts after losing something that we held dear in our lives. What isn’t normal is having all of our thoughts overrun with the negative. Take time to think about the things you say to yourself and others. Are they negative? It’s likely that some of them (any perhaps all of them) are. Think about these thoughts and where they come from. Even positive thoughts can be inappropriate at times. Nothing is all light and good. Evaluate where your thoughts are coming from and why. Doing so will help you get your thoughts and self talk on the right track. Remember, we all need a balance of light and dark in our thoughts.
Find someone to talk to.
It’s important not to keep those thoughts (good or bad) all to ourselves. When we have experienced loss it’s easy to want to be alone and grieve. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, we need to also have someone to talk to in order to help process our thoughts and emotions.
Set a goal and work towards it.
It’s likely that your self esteem has taken a pretty rough hit with the loss. It doesn’t matter what the loss is. Suddenly losing something transforms our idea of ourselves. Set a small goal and work towards achieving it. When you do you will start gaining confidence. Then, make another goal and work towards achieving it, too. Each goal we reach, no matter how small, helps to build our confidence to where it was before the loss.
Honor the Loss
It’s important to honor the memory of what we lost. This is quite common when we have lost a friend, relative, or pet through death. But all loss needs to be honored. Did you lose your job? Have you recently (or even not so recently divorced)? Have you lost the idea of realizing a dream you had for yourself? Take time to honor that loss. When we experience a major change/loss in our lives, we lose the idea of who we are. By taking the time to honor and remember what we lost we can begin the process of healing and becoming our new self.
Engage with others.
This one is similar to finding someone to talk to. But talking to someone isn’t enough by itself. You can talk to someone and still be locked up inside without getting outside. It’s important to engage with others. You may not want to do this immediately, and that’s ok. But it’s important to get out and be around other people sooner rather than later.
Practice Self Care.
What is it that you like to do for you? That thing that you find indulgent and luxurious just for you? It doesn’t matter what it is. Do it. Even little routine moments of self care are critical. Take a shower. Brush your teeth. Get dressed. Go outside. Sit in the park. Spend some time alone in meditation. Depending on what loss you have experienced and whether or not others are dependent on you, it can be difficult to remember to take care of yourself. But you must do it. Self care is critical. Honestly, if this list was in any particular order, self care would be the number one thing to do after loss.
Know that your feelings are valid.
No matter what you are feeling after loss, it’s key to remember that your feelings are valid. If you are sad, that’s valid. If you aren’t, that’s valid too. Each one of us is different and we experience and process things in different ways. Whatever your loss is and whatever you’re feeling now, it’s ok and it’s normal. That doesn’t mean you should stay in those feelings forever. It just means that there is no wrong way to feel after loss.
Ask for help.
You’re likely to have lots of well meaning friends and family tell you to let them know what they can do for you. You’re just as likely not to tell them anything. Don’t. It’s ok to need help after a loss. If you’ve lost your job you may need help with finances. If you’ve gotten divorced, you may need help with adjusting to living alone again. It doesn’t matter what your change is. It’s ok to need help and asking for that help is not something to be avoided. Remember how I said self care is the number one thing to do? Asking for help is a form of self care.
Find something to be thankful for. There is always something. Spending time in gratitude is another form of self care. It helps you focus on what you still have, and that can be very reassuring when your identity and confidence may have just taken a huge hit. It doesn’t matter what it is, find something to be thankful for and express gratitude for it.