I hope you’ve read Allyson Bright’s moving story about her journey past the trauma of her husband’s sudden death, because her story inspired today’s post. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since I met Allyson (via the terrific online community she created, Determined to Shine). I’ve wondered how it’s even possible to survive such a terrible loss. I know people do it, but it’s hard to imagine how.
Of course, we’re all survivors in one way or another–that’s why we’re still here. But I’m not sure it’s possible for us to give each other advice about how to move on from the difficulties we’ve made it through. Each of us has to find our own way. The best we can do, perhaps, is share with each other what worked for us.
Here are five different ways to move on–after a death, a breakup, a loss, or anything else that has knocked you off your feet for a while.
I mean that in the most literal sense. Get out of your bed, your chair, your house. Moving is good for your body–and remember, your brain is part of that body. While sleep is often a response to trauma, exercise of any sort is one of the best ways to combat depression and stress. Take it slow and do what you can. Get out of bed. The next day, get dressed. Maybe in another day you’ll go outside. Then go for a walk in the sunshine. Keep taking small steps forward. Make a bargain with yourself, and keep it.
Try something new.
Again, it doesn’t have to be anything big. Maybe now’s the time teach yourself how to crochet. There are a million YouTube videos that will help you learn. (This one is where I started, when I decided to give it a try.) Lately, thanks to Allyson, I’ve been learning about art journaling and discovering new ways to sort out my thoughts. Learning new things is good for your brain, too, and the novelty of the task keeps you focused on something other than the source of your suffering.
Get some space.
Allyson wrote about the importance of a trip to Kansas City–a place that didn’t hold any memories of her husband. Sometimes, we have to get some distance from the pain before we can see past it. If you can afford a trip–even for just a weekend–that might be a good idea. If not, a simple change of scenery (perhaps staying with a friend or relative for a few days) might suffice. The point is to physically take yourself out of the place you associate with your pain. You don’t have to stay away, but reminding yourself that away still exists–that there are places where the pain feels a little less present–can be helpful.
Take a risk.
Most people avoid change because it’s just too scary–their comfortable lives are too precious to risk. But when you’re already in a moment where it feels like your comfortable life has been blown to pieces, what do you have to lose by doing the thing that scares you? While you’re out of the comfort zone, give some thought to the kinds of risks you’ve avoided in the past. Travel? Career change? Relocation? Maybe the only thing standing in the way of taking a chance now is fear. And the truth is, that unknown future you’re afraid of might be better than the painful present.
Far too often, we waste time trying to pick up the pieces of a broken life. We do this in spite of the fact that we know some broken things can’t be repaired. The pieces are too small or too numerous. Key pieces are missing. After my mom passed away, leaving me without parents in the world, I honestly wasn’t sure how to operate in the world without being someone’s kid–without the knowledge that someone was there to serve as my safety net, if things got really bad.
Alexander Levy’s terrific book The Orphaned Adult helped me understand that the experience of becoming an adult orphan is fundamentally transforming. It was scary to even contemplate that kind of wholesale change, but I knew the change itself had already occurred: I was not the same person I had been. All I could do was figure out how to deal with this. As Levy writes, “By confronting us with the reality of our worst fears made manifest, grief forces us to find, or develop, courage.”
That’s where She Dwells comes in. I was scared to start a new blog–afraid I would waste time and money on a project I couldn’t complete, afraid I’d run out of things to write about. But putting this blog together was the new project that gave me a fresh start and a new purpose.
Blogging was my way of moving on. It might not be yours, but trust me–you’ll find one if you keep exploring all the possibilities.