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Dealing and Healing After Loss: 9 Tips to Help You Get Through the Day

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“Our strength grows out of our weaknesses.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you don’t know where to start, start anywhere. I keep telling myself that every time I am stuck.

Well, I’ve been a widow for year and a half, and I am twenty-four years old. Maybe that’s the way to start here.

My husband had cancer. We tried to enjoy the time before his passing as best we could, so he would die with memories, not dreams. And I guess that the fact that he died content is quite an accomplishment in our relationship.

But it doesn’t change anything in my sorrow. People keep telling me that I am young, I have my life ahead of me, I should forget, move on, stop mourning, take anti-depressants, and usually they add that I will find somebody else and be happy again.

This advice makes me sad because I am struggling to live “here and now,” not in the future. I want to live every minute of my life in fulfilling way. And to be honest, I’m kind of scared of the future and I don’t have the possibility to live in the past.

My whole life changed. There is no way to prepare for loss of the loved one. But I had to be functioning in this world, even when my soul was screaming for help.

I didn’t let myself break down. I was wearing a mask of a strong, independent woman that deals with everything. I work, study for my master’s degree, have hobbies, and take care of my family. I seem “normal.”

But deep down, I was broken to pieces. I still am. But that’s okay. I just build myself again like a puzzle. I see those puzzle pieces more clearly now—who my real friends are, what really matters, and what I care about in my life. I have my priorities straight and now I have to build myself up.

I was searching in books and on the Internet, talking with my friends, other widows, and in therapy, trying to discover what I should do to get through the day more happily. I was looking for help creating peace—just for me, not for the mask I put on for others.

Here are some tips that help me keep going and be peaceful with myself, beyond the mask.

1. Write about your feelings.

I keep writing in my journal about my life. I am introverted and I don’t like sharing my sadness with everyone around me. Occasionally, I let my brother-in-law read it. I write about my husband, how I miss him, and what makes me smile or cry in my day. It’s a way to organize the stuff in my head.

When you make time to explore your feelings in writing, it’s easier to process them.

2. Make acceptance your goal.

Keeping a journal helped me move toward acceptance. I stopped asking, “Why him, why me, why us?” I wrote it down so many times that I lost interest in searching for an answer that I couldn’t figure out. I just accepted it. And the same thing happened with many things I repeatedly wrote down or said out loud; I just sorted them in myself and could focus on other things I had to process.

You may not feel you can accept what happened right now, but keep it as a goal in your mind and you will slowly move toward acceptance and inner peace.

3. Find your “flow” activity.

Music describes how I feel and it makes me comfortable just to listen to the emotions of other people. I keep singing, too. I’m not so good, but for three or five minutes, I am myself.

I sing the emotions with my mind, heart, and body and it makes me feel alive and whole again. It’s possible to find this state of mind in other activities—sewing, painting, cooking, composing music, or creating anything else.

Fully immerse yourself in an activity or task that makes you feel whole.

4. Stay physically active.

I started jogging/running every day. I prefer night runs, where I clear my head. I never liked running, but my challenge is to put on my running shoes and go outside every day. I don’t mind the weather or if I run 600 m or 15 kilometers—it’s about me, my thoughts, and my body.

Aside from this, I do martial arts, but yoga has also helped me to stay focused and relaxed within my body and mind.

Exercise in the way that feels good to you. It helps in your fight against sadness and depression.

5. Keep your balance and take care of yourself.

Usually my life deals with extremes. To work it out, it’s about learning time-management and putting everything in balance—time for myself (relaxation, reading), for school/work, time for nourishment (keep eating properly), for exercise and hobbies, time to socialize so I don’t isolate myself (meeting friends and family, volunteer work), and time devoted to my health (doctor’s appointments, for body and mind).

Balancing your assorted needs can have a huge impact on your life. Balance isn’t always easy, so don’t stress about it. Just keep trying.

6. Seek uplifting information.

I don’t watch/read bad news, or at least I try to avoid them. I look for entertainment in my low moments (videos with cats help). I also used to read books about widowhood just to know that I am “normal” in my behavior, in my feelings.

I needed confirmation because I thought I was going crazy. Now I prefer to look for the positive instead of focusing on the depressing things in my life. I search for humanity and beauty in life and focus on my appreciation for those things.

Nurturing a sense of gratitude can help you survive some of the sadder days.

7. Give yourself permission not to be okay.

I had to figure it out by myself. Nobody else could tell me. I now know that I don’t have to put on a mask, to pretend and be strong. I just have to let myself experience my feelings and accept that I am not okay. I have to let myself cry for days. I know I will always climb up again after I am done. I always find a reason to keep going.

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Don’t be hard on yourself for feeling down. Give yourself a break.

8. Keep your mind, senses, heart, and soul open.

Every day, every minute of my “here and now” world, I try to keep open to experiences and people. I have learned how to sew on a sewing machine and do sign language. I’ve started conversations with sad strangers just because I want to cheer them up for a while.

Little everyday tasks like these get me out of my comfort zone. And I try to be grateful for things I haven’t seen before.

Appreciate the beauty of the ordinary, because you already know that nothing lasts forever.

9. Let other people be there for you.

Widowhood and grieving are not contagious, but some people act that way and distance themselves. Mostly, they just don’t know how to respond, to help, to exist nearby.

Of all the things that have helped me, I am most thankful for people that have supported me with their presence (face-to-face, through e-mail, or on the phone). I am grateful for the ones that took me to dinner/coffee and let me talk about what I miss the most about my husband. Or just gave me a hug.

I wish for everyone who is going through something like this somebody who understands. Who is there for you, even when you say “I am okay” but tears are falling down. You are doing okay. In your own unique way.

Photo by mrhayata

About Susanne Irlbeck

Susanne Irlbeck is lost in the world, but hoping she will find herself. From the Czech Republic, she’s a 24-year-old student and social worker, Shaolin peaceful warrior, and the widow of amazing man.

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