Dear Dr. Ted: I recently had a loved one die and it shook me to the ground. Now, three months later, I find myself rather lost and empty, but it is very different than when my loss first happened.
Dear Dr. Ted: I recently had a loved one die and it shook me to the ground. The level of anguish was indescribable and somehow, I survived. Now, three months later, I find myself rather lost and empty, but it is very different than when my loss first happened. It seems like I was super busy and now I'm not sure what to do. Do you have anything that might explain this void in this type of situation? Thanks, Bonnie
Dear Bonnie: What you are experiencing is very common and rarely discussed. This part of the grief process is usually rather private as it is months or maybe even years later after the death. When someone dies or there is some other type of loss, you experience a period of pain. You also have a list of action items that need to be taken care of in order to survive this world.
This may include tasks such as funeral arrangements, Social Security, legal issues, visitors, bank accounts, life insurance and so many more items that seem to need to be taken care of immediately. As these chores start to be completed the duties move to a deeper, intimate level, such as changing the house, emptying personal items, deciding to remove or not remove a wedding ring and other tasks that change the day-to-day life that you had with your loved one. As these undertakings start to decrease, there is a void and an emotional drop can occur when you no longer have these jobs and the relationship with your loved one is less tangible. It is almost like a punctuation mark at the end of another chapter of the relationship. There is a stronger sense that the person has died and is not returning.
With this ending you may experience situational depression in which you move in and out of survival mode. Your adrenals are shot, the people who have been supporting you start to go back to their everyday lives and the world begins to slow down, leaving you to sit with your loss and absorb the changes around you with little physical action to be completed. This lull can feel overwhelming, almost like a screaming silence. It can be exhausting in itself as you may feel as if you are trudging through mud without a clear direction.
Please know this is a natural phase within the grief process and you are not falling backward into the depths of your loss. You have taken a pause in which your systems start to reintegrate into the present situation and build your new way of life. I see it similar to a clutch within a car - now the clutch has been implemented in order to find the new gear going forward in your new life. Honoring this pause can help you make decisions that support the transformational process from loss.
Thank you for the question. I wish you well. Until next week, take care.
Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC, founder of Golden Willow Retreat at GWR@newmex.com.
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