How to Face a New Normal: Adjusting to Grief and Loss

walking through grief and loss, adjusting to a new normal

Adjusting to a “new normal” after grief and loss is a battle filled with difficult emotions. Grief is like trying to finish a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle while missing 500 pieces. You have to hunt down those pieces to make the puzzle whole. Sometimes you may stumble upon a piece unexpectedly, making the progress simple. Other times you may have to upend your entire house to find one single piece. It’s important to realize there’s no one correct way to retrieve all those missing pieces. Similarly, there is no one correct way to grieve after loss.

Normalizing Grief

In addition to the unique grieving process, there are countless life events that can trigger bereavement. If you are someone who thinks grief only occurs after losing a loved one, you aren’t alone. Grief is expansive and can be triggered by a variety of factors, both positive and negative. Let’s review some events that can trigger grief.

  • Death of family, friends, pets, or other loved ones
  • Miscarriage or a planned adoption falling through
  • Loss of good health of yourself or a loved one, such as being diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness
  • Empty nest syndrome after your children move out
  • Loss of a dream or goal due to other factors
  • Divorce, separation, or breakup from a romantic partner
  • Loss of friendships or close ties with others
  • Employment and financial changes such as job loss, retirement, and loss of financial stability
  • Loss of feelings of safety after a traumatic experience
  • Moving or relocating including selling your home or moving out of your parents’ home
  • Loss of personal belongings due to a natural disaster or accident
  • Giving birth and having new responsibilities
  • Graduating college and entering the work force
  • … not to mention a Worldwide Pandemic forcing changes across every part of life

 All of these things can cause feelings of a lost identity. Grief forces us to create a new normal for ourselves in response to loss. Therefore, there’s no instruction manual on how to heal after loss. It’s important to not compare your unique grieving circumstances to those of others and lose sight of your own needs. Your puzzle is different from theirs and you are missing different pieces! How can you complete your own puzzle using pieces from an entirely different puzzle?

Emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual struggles related to grief

Like an intricate 1,000 piece puzzle, grief is complex and can cause a variety a difficult experiences. It can impact all areas of life and feel overwhelming. It’s important to be aware that all struggles are valid and deserving of your personal attention and dedication to heal. You can think of the following experiences as furniture you need to move to find some of those puzzle pieces.

 Emotional Struggles

  • Agitation, irritability, and impatience that make it difficult to relax, feel peaceful, and allow healing to occur at your own pace
  • Anger and betrayal whether you are angry at yourself, others, or feeling betrayed by someone you lost
  • Shock and disbelief which can be barriers to acceptance and adjustment
  • Apathy and numbness that may impede emotional closeness with others and the healing process
  • Emptiness and loneliness that may result in feeling hopeless about your future
  • Anxiety and fear that may cause feelings of your safety being compromised
  • Guilt and shame that may contribute to feeling regretful for having done or not done something related to your loss
  • Feeling helpless, powerless, and useless over controlling your own future

Mental Struggles

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulties with decision-making and thinking through problems
  • Dwelling on the loss
  • Low self-esteem and questioning your worth
  • Blaming yourself and thinking the loss is your fault
  • Loss of interest in activities, relationships, or tasks
  • Nightmares and changes in sleeping patterns
  • Paranoia and feeling like everyone is watching you and expecting a certain reaction related to grief
  • Thinking no one can understand your pain

Physical Struggles

  • Weight fluctuations and changes in appetite
  • Fatigue and feeling weak
  • Physical pain and muscle tension
  • Racing heart or feeling like your heart is pounding out of your chest
  • Headaches making it difficult to function
  • Upset stomach or nausea
  • Weakened immune system and susceptibility to illness, infections, and disease

Spiritual Struggles

  • Emptiness and feeling lost 
  • Feeling abandoned or punished by your higher power
  • Anger and resentment at your higher power
  • Questioning your beliefs, whether religious or spiritual
  • Loss of feeling like you belong somewhere or questioning reasons to keep living

 You may be feeling upset or discouraged about all these barriers to finishing your puzzle. That’s valid! Grief is complex and there’s a lot to shuffle around to find the missing puzzle pieces to make the image whole. There’s no manual on how to grieve and no timeline detailing how long the process takes. Moreover, grief can be triggered randomly throughout life, even after you’ve processed those emotions. You will have good days and bad days, and moments of peace and moments of pain. It’s important to understand the recurrence of negative emotions doesn’t mean you have to start the process all over again. Memories of previous identities, abilities, or a sense of normalcy can trigger momentary painful emotions. Your new normal will be unique to you. 

Coping with Grief

Similar to unique experiences, there’s no one-size-fits-all to coping with grief. You are your own person with your own needs to find peace during such a difficult time. Methods of finding your puzzle pieces will be different than others. Learning to cope with loss can allow you to learn new things about yourself, whether it be skills, interests, strengths, or other characteristics. You owe it to yourself to grieve and find peace in ways that honor your own needs. Let’s look at some of the many ways you can put your puzzle together to find that new normal.

Be kind to yourself

  • Acknowledge your pain rather than avoiding it
  • Know and accept triggers that may cause your pain to recur
  • Remember grief is unique to yourself and avoid comparing with others

Staying connected

  • Share grief with others who can understand and relate
  • Take time to work through grief in a safe environment
  • Find a grief support group that focuses on your type of loss either in person or on the internet

Taking care of yourself

  • Take time to channel creativity and focus on a project
  • Proper eating, sleeping, and exercise to avoid physical and emotional fatigue
  • Take mental health days when you feel too overwhelmed to be productive
  • Engage in hobbies and other enjoyable activities
  • Find methods to relax whether it be spending time in nature, listening to music, meditating, enjoying a hot shower or bath, or other activities

Use grief activities to process and heal

  • Rituals of affirmation to cleanse yourself of built-up regret by writing an letter, song, or poem to the deceased person and thank them for their love and support
  • Gratitude letters to review fond memories with your loved one, lessons you are grateful they taught you, and things you admired about them and finish the letter by identifying how you can honor the person through your actions, feelings, and beliefs every day of your life
  • Memory gardens or other beautiful things dedicated to your lost loved one that give you peace

 These are just a few of many things that can help you cope with the difficult emotions of grieving. You may find some of these things may help and some may not. You will likely find things helpful that aren’t listed. After all, grief is unique to you! Let this knowledge empower you to finding methods to cope that suit your needs. You can find those missing pieces and complete your puzzle. It may take time and that’s okay! You deserve to grieve at your own pace.

You don’t have to figure it out alone 

A compassionate counselor who is knowledgeable about the complexity of grieving can help you heal. Sometimes we don’t know where to find those missing pieces and need to get a search party. A therapist can help you discover unique methods to cope with your loss and give you and safe space to explore and work through your emotions. You don’t have to live in a world of perpetually incomplete puzzles. If you’re ready to learn how to cope and heal after loss, schedule an appointment with a counselor who can help today either through the client portal or call the office at 770-283-8386. We can help you find the missing pieces so you can complete your puzzle.

4411 Suwanee Dam Road, Suite 450
Suwanee, GA 30024

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