Sometimes, after the death of a loved one, it can be a real struggle to adapt to life without them. On the one hand we can recognise that we need to build a different (or new) life. On the other hand we don’t want to let go of life as it previously was.
However, over time we invariably begin to realise that we need to choose a new life. This can sometimes be a very difficult decision. It’s not uncommon to feel that building a new life means forgetting the loved one or ‘getting over’ the loved one. It can feel that we would be betraying them. Often we can recognise that this is not the case, but sometimes this can be difficult for someone and therapy can invariably help here. The aim of the therapy is to learn how to incorporate the memories and experiences we have of a loved one into our present life, rather than learn how to forget them.
In cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), we recognise that our thoughts and behaviour play a key role in forming the new path.
Recent research has suggested that frequent worrisome thoughts about the future can impact the adjustment process (Eisma et al 2017). This makes sense given the amount of research that has shown that that thoughts that bring about a sense of hope can be really valuable at this time. However, it is easy to get caught up in worrisome thoughts. It is common for people to think that the pain will not ease, that they will not find a renewed sense of purpose in life, their loved one will be forgotten and that they will not be happy again. The aim of CBT is to help others recognise that this need not be the case. Knowing others have gone on to find happiness again can form the basis of this hope, and letting yourself know these things are possible is a start.
Involving ourselves in life without our loved one is also important for the adjustment process. This can be difficult, but thinking of activities to engage with as part of our new life is a step. One of the unhelpful cycles we can get into is to spend a lot of time indoors thinking about our loved one. It can be important to give ourselves time for this. However, it’s equally it’s important for us to show ourselves that life is continuing and we can continue. Therefore, engaging in some activities can be really valuable too and help us begin a different life. These activities can be things you’ve done before, or can be new interests. They can be anything from going for a coffee with a friend or doing an activity never previously considered. It may feel difficult to start something new, and indeed continue with old activities. This is where others may be of help – perhaps go with someone else first of all, or just go for a very short time.
During the initial grieving period, there will be times that things feel easier and times that will feel harder. At times you may feel like progress is slow. But, over time things will hopefully feel a little easier as we naturally adjust to our new life….. without forgetting our old one.
As always, please feel free to ask me any questions. I will be more than happy to help.