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Rediscovering Yourself and Rebuilding Your Life After Loss

Woman Silhouette

“He who sits in the house of grief will eventually sit in the garden.” ~Hafiz

My life has fallen apart around me.

I ended a five-year relationship with a man I thought I wanted to marry, quit a full-time office job with no further prospects, and moved back to my tiny hometown to live with my parents.

All of these transitions occurred within the same week.

I was twenty when I met my boyfriend, and he was twenty-eight. We spent every waking moment together, dating for four-and-a-half years and living together for two. This time was punctuated with moments of bliss; however, I was often filled with doubt about our future.

Small betrayals had left me co-dependent, with low self-esteem. Toward the end of our relationship, I was suffering beyond measure. I lacked fulfillment in my first salaried job, and our tiny, decrepit apartment was void of nourishment.

I quit my job first, giving no notice and leaving a resignation letter on my boss’s desk. A week later, I moved all my things from my boyfriend’s house while he was on vacation.

He returned to a half empty home. I was shaken to the core with grief and guilt.

Two months later, I am still wading through an overwhelming depression. Despite an aching loneliness for my former life, my heart is overflowing with more love and gratitude than I thought possible.

In this personal rock bottom, I finally understand the meaning of abundance.

My friends showed up, offering me places to stay if I needed. My family showed up, supporting me in my financial crisis. Old flames showed up to rekindle and reflect deep love.

My creative practice showed up to heal wounds inflicted through years of betrayal. Music has become sweeter, more soulful, and longing with reverberations of the human condition. Nature has become a solace.

I find myself slowly reaching closure in all forgotten aspects of my soul. Alone and without distraction, I have been forced to unlock the closed doors of my psyche, full of dusty memories, ignored desires, and misplaced dreams.

I am picking up the pieces of the identity that I lost in the whirlwind of relationship compromises, job obligations, and money-based motivations.

I am finally rebuilding an identity based on trust, love, and compassion for others and myself. I am holding space for the tender parts of my soul, patient and yet full of longing.

The hardest part of this transition has been a lack of consistent emotional intimacy and losing all financial “security.”

Despite my rapid mood swings through grief and joy, I sense stability approaching. I feel the upswing coming, the point in my life where I transform into a more positive, full expression of myself. In the elimination of all the old experiences and situations that no longer serve me, I am reborn.

I understand the metaphor of the caterpillar that turns into a butterfly. My molting has begun.

Dear reader, take heart.

If your life is falling apart around you in any capacity, please trust the process. Through the darkest nights of your soul, a light shines forth.

Only through these heart-wrenching challenges can we grow and develop spiritually and emotionally and become more fully who we were meant to be.

After loss, we have an opportunity to reinvent our lives and ourselves.

All the patchwork dreams I wove while in my grief are finally coming true. I have been traveling to new places. I am falling in love again. I am rekindling my fondness for oil painting. I signed up for a ceramics class at the local community college. I am starting to think about a graduate program for art.

These are all things I formerly felt were far from reach, but since radical change and loss, I am finding my true identity and fulfilling myself.

If your depression and grief takes you to places of fear, confusion, and loneliness, please hold space for those feelings and allow them to wash over you like water. These turbulent emotions will pass. Tomorrow is a new day, with new opportunities.

Be patient. Change takes time, especially positive changes. You must work the compost before growing the flowers.

Train yourself to pay attention to the small things. I notice all these things now.

A light rain soothes my aching heart. A call from a friend reminds me that I am not alone. A warm meal nourishes my spirit.

Sometimes, all it takes to recover from loss is awareness of life’s small treasures. New opportunities for change and development present themselves every day.

Grieve, and the garden will begin to grow beneath your feet.

Woman silhouette via Shutterstock

About Mahala Lewis

Mahala Lewis lives in Sierra Vista, Arizona. She graduated from the University of Arizona in 2012, receiving a BA in Fine Art and Anthropology. She loves hiking, painting, and hanging out with her two dogs and all her beautiful friends. You can see her artwork at mahalalewis.com.

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  • Lovely, Mahala. May your journey back to yourself culminate in joy and peace.

  • Talya Price

    Thank you for sharing your story. Your quote: “If your life is falling apart around you in any capacity, please trust the process. Through the darkest nights of your soul, a light shines forth.” really spoke to me. I have been in the midst of recovery and transformation after a rollercoaster ride of emotions and turmoil. I am so happy that you were brave enough to share your story.

  • Zoe

    “You must work the compost before growing the flowers”…..I like that sentence, and after that mess the flowers bloomed beautifully, didn’t they?

  • Moving On…

    I was ABSOLUTELY taken aback by your story and how similar it is to my own. I also ended a 5-year relationship with someone I kept trying to convince myself that I wanted to marry. Through our transition from our 20’s to 30’s, I had hoped certain behaviors would change (i.e. he’d become more aware and responsible, less drinking, more thought about our future, etc.), although they never did. While he was at work, I packed up all of my belongs and moved back to my parent’s place with the help of my best friend. Unaware, he too came home to an almost completely empty room we once shared…I also felt extreme guilt at first. After deeper thought, I’ve come to realize that it was unfair to settle for a Iife I truly didn’t want and that in fact, I owed it to my own well-being to let him go. It’s been less than three months, but I continue to progress forward with the help of positive thinking (like you’ve exhibited) and by taking care of myself first and foremost. I’m so happy I came across your article, it’s yet another reminder that I’m not alone and more importantly, that I made the correct choice despite the temporary hardship that it brings!

  • v ub

    Im absolutely gng through the same except that we always were in a distant relationship.. it has jus happened and wounds are nnew fresh and wet.. I have absolutely no clue where I will end up.
    Sometimes social pressures bog us down & force us to do things we don’t want to
    Thank u very much for sharing really needed this

  • lv2terp

    Beautiful and inspiring message, thank you for sharing your story and wisdom! 🙂

  • sw

    I am another who went through several major changes all at once. Quit my job, left my husband after many years of marriage, moved back across the country to “home”. After counselling, buying a house, and getting a dog, life has finally settled. I had a lot of sadness, confusion, and terrible aching loneliness, but time, reflection, and meditation have brought peace at long last. I am alone a lot but feel warm and happy inside. I revel and delight in the small wonders that nature brings to show me in my new neighborhood, and I am trying things I have always wanted to do. Your article is right on the mark, and I hope it inspires others to be strong and know that peace will come. The best peace ever felt.

  • Nicole

    I really needed to see this today. I needed to know that I am not the only person that has broke due to my own choices. I stayed in a relationship where I was cheated and lied to. I stayed at a job that I only took for the financial gains. Neither served me. The co-dependence in the relationship consumed me. The unfilling job depressed me even more. In a matter of two days, I quit the job without another lined up and broke up with the cheating boyfriend. I was desperate and broken. I knew something had to change. My friends and family rallied for me. I found the courage within myself to get out and get back to myself. I knew I was the only person that could change what was happening. It has only been a few weeks, but I am already feeling better. I found a new job, in a field that I know and fulfills me. Each day I am waking up with purpose instead of dread. appreciating the small things really has helped me. I wake up, and primp for a day in a professional atmosphere. It makes me happy to polish myself. I am thankful with the interactions with my clients and co-workers. I appreciate the slightly longer commute, as it gives me time to soak up some sunshine and listen to music as I drive. The calls from my friends, I cherish. I am taking baby steps back to the woman I once was, centered and secure. I wish you and anyone else in this situation the same, a path to happiness.

  • angel1873

    just what i needed to read…many thanks for that

  • Peace Within

    I am super happy for you Nicole. None of that was easy. The outcome is worth it. As time progresses you will feel better and better about the choices you have made. You won’t go back to the woman you once were; you will be stronger and wiser. Our experiences change us! I wish you the best of luck on your journey. You are an inspiration to others who can relate. You said your drives are longer. I find long drives to be therapeutic. It’s a matter of what we do with the time. Take care!

  • Reality

    Sorry to everyone on a cloud somewhere but this is weak, ungrateful, inconsiderate and your contrived outlook on life is sad and hurts everyone around you. Sure sometimes you have to make a mess to get the cleanest result in the end but these are people in your life that you selfishly hurt…to find yourself? If we all “trust the process” this world would be full of inconsiderate people with no real trust in others that would run away from their problems. Get real and here’s a quote for everyone out there, “you made your bed, now lie in it” don’t just run out on it when it’s convenient for you and drum up some rationalization that this is what you needed to feel loved. Hurting others in search of yourself is a sad way to live.

  • Thank you, Talya! Recovery is quite a journey, and I’m learning to accept with the occasional relapse. I hope you are in a good place now!!

  • Wonderful words! Thank you for sharing your story, and I am so glad you are on the path toward your true authentic expression. Yes, I also feel those little baby steps toward the woman I was before codependency. Let’s hope the same for all! 🙂

  • Peace, SW! Thank you for sharing! I am so glad to know that with time and meditation, peace can finally be found. I am still working towards this goal…

  • Thank you for sharing as well! Healing vibrations to you, I hope that you can give yourself a big dose of self love and self compassion to prepare you for the journey ahead.

  • More beautiful then I could imagine 🙂

  • CJ

    I’m going through the same process just the same right down to the love of painting! This was exactly what I need on this journey and love that you have shared it. Things always get better, there is beauty in pain.

  • Slayer

    “My family showed up, supporting me in my financial crisis.”
    “The hardest part of this transition has been…losing all financial ‘security’.”

    Honey, if your family is supporting you through your financial crisis, you aren’t losing your financial security. Honestly, you just sound like a spoiled, entitled, selfish brat.

  • Guest

    }——>>

  • Kay

    Thank you for sharing your story and for your honesty. I went through similar massive change six years ago. Left New York City, the dead end job and relationship. The stigma of moving back to my childhood home was difficult but allowed
    me go back to school to get trained in a new career. The pain and self-doubt these changes brought on was at times unbearable, but working in my garden and having a dog to remind you of how blissful the simple moments can be was truly better than any therapy. All of that difficulty is now just a faded memory.

  • Eva McClintock

    Thank you Mahala and everyone else who commented for sharing your experience, strength and hope. Turns out my situation is not unique – it’s good to know that I am not alone.

  • Sally89

    That was an unkind comment. I wonder what’s happening in your life to make you lash out at someone in this way.

  • kate

    how do you trust the process if you have NO ONE? this happened to me, but my husband did what you did….simply walked out and never returned, leaving me blindsided and confused about what i thought was a beautiful and loving marriage. together 8 years, married a year and a half. All while i had moved from australia to help him pursue his dreams, quit my career and was navigating a new country.

    My friends and family are NOT here. they are scattered around the globe. my family have been…awful. We’ve never been close..and they have let me be. my friends are great, but they don’t understand. no one they know has been treated so appallingly before.

    I honestly no longer see the light or the point of living. he has hurt me so bad. so while i am happy you have gratitude and all these loving ppl…what about those of us who truly are alone in the world? what then? anyone?

  • Andres

    Thank you! I really needed to read this..

  • Kayla Gray

    You aren’t truly alone. Your family and friends may have acted appallingly but I can assure there are people you’ve never met who already care about you. You’re just looking in the wrong place. I will let you know that; If I had the means, you could come stay at my house and heal (heck you could live there, and I would expect nothing except you try your very best to be truly happy and at peace). I am saving for a home. I know this doesn’t do a hell of a lot for you, I just want to let you know, we are here.. or I am here. Message if you need. I don’t judge (do unto others what you would like done unto you!) You are human, I am human. We are all the same, just a little different but the same. I send you love in the name of love.

    Kayla

  • sm731

    I am currently going throught the same situation. I moved across the country with my bf at the time. To only be verbally and emotionally abused. I quit my job and left my loved ones for him. When one day we got in a terrible fight I walked out and came back home. Once back I found out he has been cheating on me for a year. I feel so hurt and betrayed. Even after I found out he was cheating, instead of being apologetic he contiuned to lie and cheat. I finally ended things with him but I just feel so hurt over all his actions

  • Hannah

    THANK YOU !!! for opening up and sharing your story I can TOTALLY relate !

  • Nomonde Mbatha

    This was just a trully powerfull read!!!! It made my outlook on life trully clearer and put a lot into perspective.

  • Deepak Dasgupta

    I agree what to do when there is really NO one. I was cut off completely from life of my gf after she found someone else. We were together for 5 years and last year as a friend so that we understand what is happening in our relationship. As a friend we spent lots of time together going holidays etc. But not any more! her old love came back from abroad and I was just ignored from her life.
    I am living alone in Europe with siblings in different continents. Friends we had common and since the guy is also older friends of the group, I am not part of the friend circle also.
    I feel so hurt not so much for losing love and losing my best friend with whom I spent so many years but because of the way people write one off when they find someone else.
    I spend my life alone and the worst are weekends when I just don’t know what to do. I run or bike like crazy around the nature to keep myself busy but when it hits that I am just alone in this world and if tomorrow I am not there also no one will really know or care about it, it gives the worst feeling.

  • Bella

    Mahala hello, I’m so impressed with his story that comes açao I ran out, I pretty much the same, however spent all this intensely on a vacation and believe me when The poet Fernando Pessoa wrote

    The value of things is not in how long they last, but the intensity with which they occur. So there are unforgettable moments, inexplicable things and incomparable people.

    He lived so profudamente the moment that all upsetting interactions I’ve ever had not had the same strength. So he and other parents took my contact and after one month I began to realize small betrayals and was being deiada aside gradually, I realized it would be one among several subtle flirtations and full of grace and kindness discreet thing he has to spare.

    Anyway, I know that me and an example and whenever I think I’ll have relapse or I’m going to look at the things he already wrote or gave me I run for your text and get new energy. gratefulness

  • Don Dressel

    I lost my wife who was cheating on me emotionally
    I then lost my home and my 2 dogs and on top of it I lost my father to whom I was very close to
    Basically I lost everything in my life
    I am lucky to have other good family members who have been there for me
    I also have good friends who have supported me through all of this
    My ex who I was so good to and she even told me that turned against me
    I can hardly believe after 24 years together how angry and cold she is towards me!
    I’m now trying to rebuild my life but at 59 it isn’t very easy
    I’ve had hard times in the past with losing my last wife to cancer in 89 and adopting her kids because their so called father wasn’t there for them
    I took care of her until she took her last breath in December of 89
    Then my current ex came into my life with insecurities of needing attention from other men
    I finally caught her talking to other men and wanting to run off with them
    I told myself I deserved better!
    I lost everything but I do have my self-respect

  • Yeti

    That was a wonderful blog. Thank you sharing this.

  • Melissa Moffitt

    I left a ten year relationship with a wonderful man I was not in love with. I had everything I could only dream of with ​him. A ranch, animals galore, fresh air and land to roam. I jumped into another relationship immediately, and now I am realizing that wasn’t the brightest idea. I have nothing to my name, but I know I have to be strong to move on in life to be happy. I thank you for being vonerable and sharing your story. I’m looking to a brighter future for myself wherever that may be. Stay true.
    M.A.M

  • alexandra

    so I’m just wondering- after total collapse of career and family and finances and all your friends have abandoned you and your church family has as well- 6 years later and I’m still struggling to get up on my feet- Ive attempted to get concealing twice to assist me and they just want to talk ablaut my childhood- they don’t help me get over the fence as it were- i am completely lost and feeling quite stuck- i have been able to build quite a nice little “kingdom” for my son with advise and wisdom and care taking pets properties and investments- but i am no more ahead for myself than before- what started out as “doing before i died” turned into a purpose to get up in the morning- Ive tried a small business 3 times- failing every time- i don’t know how to help myself and have isolated for so long I have no relationships but that with my adult son whom i still care for and about-
    I need help that is practical.
    Im really stuck and beginning to resent him for all he has at my effort when it wasn’t spozd to be like this-‘
    help