Retired hospice bereavement counselor Brian Eckhart has a saying, “When someone you love dies, your brains fall out.” Grief is a complicated thing and it doesn’t end all at once. There are pieces of grief that will always be with us. Grief isn’t something you “get over,” it’s something you learn to live with.
But eventually, grief DOES stop running your life. The time frame for this is different for everyone. Some women feel ready to move forward after six months, others take several years to reach that point of readiness. You begin to think about “normal” things again. You find it’s easier to make decisions, or at least recognize that there are some decisions awaiting your approval.
One of the trickiest things about moving forward is the energy you’ll need. Moving forward takes a lot of energy! How fast you’ll go depends on how much energy you have and how much support and encouragement you receive.
Recovery, like grief, has its own time frame. You can’t rush it or push it. It is wise to honor the fact that you have survived the biggest “life change” of them all – the death of your spouse. Rebuilding your life is not an easy thing, either. You are going to build a new framework for your life, one that honors you and the things you like to do. Some days it will feel like a “one step forward, one step back” kind of process!
It’s very, very easy to get overwhelmed with all the things you think you have to do or want to do or feel you need to do. So, start by using this relaxation exercise developing by Harvard psychologist Herbert Benson. It’s called the relaxation response and it’s simple to do:
Sit comfortably for 5 minutes. Close your eyes. Focus all on your breath. Feel your breath enter your belly and see it leaving your body as you exhale. Each time you exhale, silently say the word “one.” If your mind wanders (and it will try to!) simply return to being aware of your breath and continue to silently say the word “one” on each exhale.