Tips to Begin to Move Forward After a Traumatic Event

When my husband passed on October 28, 2008, I felt the immediate need to continue doing the things he loved. Working out, learning ice hockey, and come summertime, surf fish in the Atlantic Ocean. But eventually, I stopped enjoying the gym as his workout buddies would come up and ask me where he was and I’d have to explain all the horrific details. I signed up for ice hockey lessons only to bail out last minute because of the expense, and although I went surf fishing in the Atlantic numerous times, I couldn’t seem to catch a fish.

It wasn’t until a weekend to the beach with my parents that I realized no matter how hard I tried, doing the things that my husband and I loved to do together, by myself, would never bring back the pleasureful feelings of him by my side. It was time to let go and figure out what I wanted to do with this new life.

When traumatic life events happen, while we quickly learn how precious life is, we get stuck in concrete and are unable to move forward with our solo hopes and dreams. We don’t even have solo hopes and dreams!  As a couple, my husband and I planned our future and expressed our hopes and desires for how we would grow old together. With his death, all those dreams were shattered and I had difficulty letting go of living out our dreams despite him not being by my side.

Life changes, and although we don’t have to give up all the hopes, dreams, and plans that were made, we have to adjust them to our new lifestyle. Whether we want to or not. It’s a learning process, not one found easily, and certainly not one that ever feels like a milestone or achievement. Instead, it feels only as a greater loss to finally evolve past what was to be, and to embrace what is reality.

Learning to start to make new plans alone for an unexpected future is not an easy task. While nothing has to be planned for certain, it’s nice to know expectations for what you want in your life, now living solo. While you may still want to continue with some of the plans you and your spouse had, it’s also important to find your identity again. With marriage, you definitely lose a sense of your self identity as you morph into couplehood.

While I never felt I had to give up my identity to my husband, I certainly swayed on some things I loved to do, and adjusted to the things we loved to do as a couple. But as I adjusted to solo life again, I enjoyed watching cheesy chick flicks, sweet wines instead of dry, and gave into way too much dessert. I avoided the gym like the plague and not having caught a fish all year has certainly hindered my love for surf fishing.

So where do I fit into my new life? When you ask this question, it’s time to start a list. While it will be hard to write down a list of your sole wants and desires without including your former spouse, it is time to become a little bit selfish. An unexpected new life can be scary and entering it with the wrong focus or mindset can often lead to a path of unwanted expectations.

Once the list is created, see what is viable for your budget, time, location, etcetera. There are many things to consider in determining what you want to achieve out of a new life. While some things may sound great right now, they may be better suited for a few years down the road when you are more stable.

When you find about 5 things that truly suit your needs and situation right now, write out how you can go about achieving them and never forget to reach out to your friends and family for help. They have watched you progress from point a to point z, and they want to help you get on your feet again. Many times these new situations can assist in securing great connections to get you by.

Next step? Well, you can dream all you want, but you have to put in some effort to achieve those wants and desires. It may take a little elbow grease, and you may not have much of that to give right now. Don’t overwhelm yourself but nibble away at your comfort level, pushing just a bit past your limits.

With new transitions, comes new personality traits, and new ways of handling situations. Patience may be thin, ambition weak, and you could feel just exhausted. Don’t overdo it, but take breaks when you simply cannot do more, enjoy the solace, then push forward again.

Reflect upon what could have been, then move forward. It’s important to allow yourself to feel the pain of the loss of those dreams, those tragic secondary losses. However, only allow yourself a few minutes-15 at the most-then refocus on the positive of the great new things you get to do now. You may not have been the one battling, but because you witnessed it first hand, you have a new lease on life that most never get. Enjoy it and reach out.

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