Last Updated on May 28, 2021 by Sarah Gallagher
When you lose a spouse, you not only lose your person, you also lose your best friend, the shared life goals you aspired to have, and your own identity. If it feels like the old you died with them, it has. Learning from my own experience as a widow, and reaching out to other widows, I’ve mapped out the 3 empowering mind shifts to conquer grief and reclaim your life.
My son compared it to a video game, where you die and get to restart your life again. But, suddenly you’re older, and have kids, and maybe a house, and everything that you had together with your spouse, but now they’re gone and you’re still here. Which changed everything. You then ask yourself, “What am I going to do now?”
Conquer Grief and Reclaim Your Life
Learning from my own experience as a widow, and from reaching out to other widows over the years, I’ve been able to map out the three empowering mind shifts that you need to conquer and to reclaim your life.
Now, when I say conquer, I’m not saying it’s ever going to go away. Your grief is with you forever. But you can tame your grief and to stop being this horrible-in-your face, look-at-me, jealous entity. When it’s new, grief just takes over everything. But over time, it matures into a very solid, supportive companion that you couldn’t imagine being without it. In order to get there, you must go through three empowering mind shifts which I’m going to break down for you. These are the shifts that every window and widower go through during the grief journey.
They are: reassess, redefine and rebuild. It sounds so simple, but it can take years to understand what necessary mind shifts are, and why they’re so needed. I know you don’t want this healing to take years, which is why I wanted to create this blueprint for you to help you conquer your grief, and reclaim your life again.
Do Not Apply These Lessons Until You Are Ready
I wouldn’t recommend you start working on these until you are at least six months into your grief. At least. I would even say give up to two years before you start this process because at first there’s just this haze and craziness going on and you can’t focus on anything, let alone try to focus on you.
It’s not until later when you’re able to calm down a little bit, when the fog is starting to lift and reality kicks in. When you’re in that middle area where you’re not sure whether you want to stay back in your old life, or go to your new one.
Or you know that you do want to go to the new one, but you don’t know how to get there. That’s what this is about.
If you’re not there yet, don’t worry. Keep this in your back pocket for when you are there.
Don’t attempt to do this until you are ready, because this is a deep dive. It’s a very important part of the process. And when you start doing this, it’s going to kind of open up to your own self. You probably haven’t had a chance to look at yourself, because of the grief, and the craziness, and the emotions, and everything.
Are you ready?
Let’s dive in.
Part 1 – Your Past
The first step you’ll need to do, to delve into how you identified in the past. Who were you? What did your spouse admire about you? Did he see, or she see that no one else did? What did you feel about yourself, your true self, when you were around them?
I found that when I was around my husband, he acted like this mirror, and I could see more of what I was then before. All the things that were best about me would be amplified and reflected back to me, to show me my true self. As I was the mirror for him. Did you feel the same with your spouse?
What gratified your soul? What did you do that really made you feel whole and well, and that you were on the right path? Think about it. Again, this could take some time because you’re going to be revisiting the past and that’s difficult to deal with it already, but now you’re focusing on you. Delving into your deep personal spaces.
Take as long as you need. Take a week, take a month, two. You’ll know when you’re ready to move on.
Part 2 – Your Present
Once you’re done, the first part, part two is taking on the present.
This is a big step because the heart and the head are at different points right now. They’re having the hardest time trying to reconcile what the hell just happened, and they’ve locked themselves into their separate rooms. You’re trying to get them to talk to each other and start playing nicely together again.
Your role is to guide them, and yourself, to accept and really realize that your loved one is dead. Which is another reason why I said you don’t want to do this until you’re already starting to get out of your fog. You start realizing where reality is heading. This has to happen. If that is the case, that means you’re ready for your transformation.
Now, you can’t be who you were in the past, because death is completely irreversible and has changed you fundamentally. I don’t know how it changed you, but this is what you have to figure out. Figure out what is making you want to take that next step. What is that tug? What is it that you want? Just say to get over grief, because this is bigger than that. Grief will be with you forever. You can’t get away from it. But you can conquer it. Tell yourself what is that thing that is making you want to go forward. What is that? Can you identify it? Can you delve into what is about you that has changed?
What makes you you right now?
Part 3 – Your Unique Pathway
What you discover as you delve deep into yourself will become the basis of your own personal path out of grief. Everybody’s path is different, right? Your own grief is different. Your own way out is different. And I’m not going to tell you what it is. I can’t tell you what that is. You know what that is. You just gotta figure that out.
This is where you take the work from the past and the present and play with them. What parts of your old self still fit into this new life? Which pieces of you that are new can be grafted onto this framework? Now, you’ll have this wonderful mesh of past self and present self that will become the foundation of who you will become.
Your two selves don’t have to be separate. They are both you. This is who you are, and you’re going to use this as the cartography paper where your journey will be mapped out. Say, this is who I am. This is who I am going forward.
Once you figure this out, it’s not set in stone. Because as your life changes, and as you change and evolve through life, your path obviously will become clear as you change and you evolve as you continue through this process. So don’t worry about trying to get this fully mapped out. This journey now is to get the foundation of it, get the bare outlines of your map. And you’ll use that as the basis for your next steps.
That was your first, heavy, soul shaking mind shift. You still with me? Don’t worry. It gets easier.
Time for some more subtle shifts. Now that you have a better understanding of who you are now, and have a loose awareness of where the boundaries of your map are, it’s time to explore those boundaries.
Try things you haven’t tried before. Try things that you’re hoping to try, but weren’t able to. If you wanna do this on your own, there are different techniques in meditation you can do. You’ll be playing with this new concept of self, using introspective methods to fully temper your new sense of self.
Take this time to explore your boundaries, and experiment with what feels comfortable for you. On the average, this process takes about a month.
Part 4 – Re-Examine
Now you’re at the right place to start thinking about the future. You’ve grounded yourself enough to start to move forward. This is where you start to test boundaries.
Let’s start with re-examining your own true needs. In every relationship, there are compromises. You don’t have those constraints anymore.
Let’s put it this way: what was something your lover refused to do that you can do now? What can you resurrect about your wants and needs?
Next, let’s re-examine your future vision. What images of your future picture can still remain a possibility? Maybe you had decided as a couple that you were going to travel the world in a caravan for a year.
Why let that dream die with him? You are more than capable of doing it on your own – you just have to readjust how you’re going to get there. It’s not going to be easy, and it won’t be the same without him. But that’s part of the point. You are doing this for you, with the memories of your love supporting you.
Basically, what you are doing is reshaping your memories into new traditions. You’re taking your past, and you’re bringing it with you – in a healthy way – into your future.
Part 5 – Reconnect
Even though grief could seem focused on healing mentally and emotionally, your nervous system still responds as if the event was an attack on the body. Your body has gone through some massive PSTD which it needs to heal.
Exercise is incredibly therapeutic, as it releases endorphins to the brain, increases blood flow, improves mental clarity and strengthens your immune system.
Plus, when you’re pushing past your limits on the treadmill or the size of your weights, it gives you a sense of control. This is so, so important when everything else seems to be spinning you in a circle.
By reconnecting your mind to your body, you’re healing your nervous system. You’re becoming aware of your body, your limits, and how far you can push yourself.
Yoga, running, swimming, cycling, weights…it’s all about mindfullness and reconnection. Plus it’s a good incentive to get out from under your pillows. Go face the world, in your own little bubble in the zone.
Part 6 – Restore
While you continue working on the actionable tasks to get you back on your path, you also have to acknowledge all of your subconscious work.
There’s so much in there that can’t come out unless you sit and listen.
Self-awareness is a key component of getting the heart and mind to understand each other again. It getting rid of the background noise so you can hear it.
There are several ways to tap into this, but here are a few:
- Daily journaling
- Long wandering walks
- Free association writing
Associated Post: Writing to Cope With Grief
The last mind shift is Rebuild, where you create life on your terms.
Part 7 – Re-establish
Now that you’ve found comfort in your new skin, it’s time to rebuild your future. Honestly, this part of the program always gives me goosebumps to see my clients’ transformation.
This is gonna sound really weird, but you will need to refresh your friend’s list. Yes, that’s harsh, but know exactly who has been a friend to you during this time, and who hasn’t. You have to cull that list. You don’t want to keep people around who can’t be there for you. You can’t be taking care of them because they’re worried more about their feelings than how you’re feeling. Unfortunately, this means that maybe you’re going to be culling a lot more of them. You’ve changed to the point where you don’t really identify with them anymore, which is understandable as you’re a completely different person now.
Now, let’s bulk up that list a little bit. Nobody can be alone. Nobody’s an island. Everybody needs their community, and they need to be around each other. So what I would recommend you do is to make new connections that get who you are right now. Get involved with your community. Join some widows groups, like mine.
Make friends with your kids’ friends’ parents. Parents can also be really good, because you have a common interest. Get involved in the neighborhood, volunteer for events like bake sales or other events that are happening. There are so many different ways to create new supportive connections. Grow your community.
Part 8 – Re-Identify
Then you’re going to take all of that change, all that’s been going on inside, and you’re going to wear it as a label of confidence on the outside.
There are so many different shifts that happen in yourself when you go through this process. Through all this work and turmoil, everything about you has changed on the inside, but nothing’s really changed that much on the outside.
There’s this need of being able to say, I want to wear this as a badge of merit. It’s important to get that out there. That’s when you say, okay, how am I going to do that?
Maybe it could be with a new haircut, or maybe a memorial tattoo, or a new wardrobe. You choose something that works for you, that shows off who you are now.
It can be a subtle thing, or drastic. What’s good for you.
Part 9 – Refocus
This is the cap off. It’s a complete refocus. You’ve got to go back into everything you just worked on. You’re going to find that perfect synergy, and you’re going to turn that inwards.
You’re going to pinpoint your current strengths, your life goals and your new wishes. This is the culmination of the entire process. It’s the same process that every widow goes through.
Reclaim Your Life
By the time you’ve gone through it, you’re going to be a much happier, more stable place. You’ll know that you can move forward in your life towards your newly discovered life goals and with the memories of your loved one, supporting you.
Now that you have a blueprint on how to access these three empowering mind shifts you could do this alone. Working on your own is absolutely possible.
But, you have another option. You could work with a seasoned widow.
One who’s gone through this process, has reclaimed her life and helped others reclaim theirs too. I have very specific ways of how each step works and how to get to that next arc. The typical timeline if you’re working with me is three months to get to your transformation.
You’re going to get from where you are to where you want to be. I promise you. I don’t want you to take the years needed to process it alone. I don’t want that for you. You waited long enough for your life to get going again.
I wish this program was around when I was going through my grief. It would have saved years of struggle. I became exactly what I wish I had: a kindhearted, never fake, ever supportive fellow widow who gets it.
If you’re ready to find out what your transformation can be, book a Discovery Call with me.