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Embracing Life After Loss - Navigating Grief and Rediscovering Joy

Dear Beautiful Souls,
Life's journey is filled with moments of joy, love, and connection, but it also presents us with challenges and heartaches. I often refer to this as the balance required to maintain the equilibrium in this journey called life. In this month’s blog post I want to focus on one of the most profound challenges we are destined to encounter which is the loss of a loved one. Grief is a natural response to loss, and navigating it will be a deeply personal and transformative journey. The question is how to navigate grief while also finding a way to embrace life and rediscover joy?
Over the last decade or so my family and I have lost too many: my mother (2012), my nephew, our beloved gentle giant (2013), my oldest sister (2015), my oldest brother (2019), his wife, who was more like a sister even though technically my sister-in-law (2021), my father-in-law (2022), my niece (2022), and my ex-husband / children’s father (2023). Can you imagine how hard it is to continue to have to go through this over and over again? Can you imagine that given the privilege to continue life’s journey, there undoubtedly will be more grief? I often ask my 97 year-old grandmother how she’s managed. She’s a sweetheart and has a profound relationship with her Lord and Savior. We all should be so fortunate. One thing she always says is that she trusts the process and that she’s here for a purpose and won’t leave before that purpose has been fulfilled. A big part of me believes that, most days.
Even with grandma’s sound and sage guidance I’m enthralled in a lot of thoughts on this subject. In fact, as I write this month’s blog post it’s on the 8th anniversary of my sister’s passing. I remember that day so vividly. But something is a little different this year. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older, today’s weather, or just the very unpredictable impact of grief. Sometimes the memories of loved ones who have departed are fleeting and gentle like a warm breeze on a hot summer day; just enough to remind you of grace. But on other days it’s like the hard crushing pain of plummeting to the earth from 21,000 feet in the air. No hope for survival from the pain that is wrenching your heart and soul. Yes….it’s that extreme.
Before I go down a rabbit hole sharing the emotional roller coaster or grief let’s focus on why we’re here which is to sort out how to live and find joy in life after loss. The original question I posed was how to navigate grief while also finding a way to embrace life and rediscover joy?
Here’s a few tips for those willing to still trust that this all makes sense somehow and are courageous enough to attempt to embrace life after death. As someone who has had to do this more than a few times, I can testify that it’s possible. After losing my mom, I couldn’t feel anything. I was a self-destruction in progress and I don’t think anyone really knew because I was great at putting up a front. But you have to be willing to try. You have to look around and find your why. Mine was easier than some - it was my 3 children. But I often wonder for those who don’t have children or a partner or something tangible how they get through it. There’s something in that which reminds me of self-love and purpose but again I don’t want to take us down a rabbit hole. All I can say is for me, once I found my why, I didn’t need to know how because the ability to go on just followed with each passing moment. I don’t think I will ever “get over” the losses, I just believe time helps me cope.
Now, back to those tips I mentioned:
1. Acknowledge Your Feelings:
Grief is a complex emotional experience, and it's important to acknowledge and honor your feelings. Allow yourself to feel the pain, sadness, anger, and confusion that may arise. Recognize that these emotions are a natural part of the healing process and that it's okay to grieve in your own way and at your own pace. Just remember to show yourself grace too! One thing I learned to do was ask myself what would my loved one want for me at this moment? I also asked, if I was gone and they remained what would I want for them?
2. Create Space for Healing:
Healing from loss takes time. Create a safe space for yourself to process your emotions. Surround yourself with supportive friends, family, and / or a grief support group or counselor. Talking about your feelings and sharing memories of your loved one can help you process your grief and find solace in the presence of others who understand. We often suffer from survivors guilt — like why them and not me, but the reality is that guilt doesn’t serve you or the memory of your loved one. Instead of punishing ourselves with guilt which doesn’t honor those who have departed we should find healthy ways to honor what we had and in doing so honor them. When my nephew (the gentle giant) passed away in 2013 it was 2 days before my mother’s first birthday after having passed just 8 months prior. I was agonizing about what it would be like not have her here to celebrate. But his death completely shifted my agony and all I could do was scream bloody murder. This couldn’t be happening again. Twelve days later was my birthday and I honored him by doing what I thought he’d want me to do and that was celebrate and be grateful for another cycle around the sun. That alone was a gift I couldn’t take for granted. There was solace in that day and I’m so grateful I allowed myself that time. In my heart I think I made him smile down from heaven.
3. Practice Self-Care:
During times of grief, self-care becomes essential. Engage in activities that nurture your well-being, whether it's taking walks in nature, journaling, practicing mindfulness, or pursuing creative outlets. Prioritize your physical and emotional health, and allow yourself moments of respite. On the heels of my sister’s passing she visited me in a dream. It was life changing. Advice she had given many times while she was here now resonated. I cut a lot of things out of my life and changed my mindset about so many things. I think that was the optimum moment of self-care and self-preservation because after my sister passed I felt like I just couldn’t take any more!
4. Embrace the Memories:
While loss may bring pain, it's also an opportunity to cherish and celebrate the memories you shared with your loved one. Create a memory box, write letters, or engage in rituals that honor their life and legacy. Remember that these memories can bring comfort and serve as a way to keep their spirit alive. If nothing else, life is chocked full of joyous moments that create lasting and meaningful memories. Don’t bury them with your loved one, instead lean on them. You will find yourself laughing and crying at the same time. Today I attempted to have a glass of Pinot Grigio in remembrance of my sister but the restaurant I was dining at during this business trip didn’t have one that tasted good so I had a glass of what I liked and said cheers to her in heaven. We had a lot of wine together when she was here so that was apropos.
5. Rediscover Joy Intentionally:
Finding joy after loss may seem impossible, but it's possible. Be intentional about allowing yourself to experience moments of happiness without guilt. Engage in activities that bring you joy, spend time with loved ones who uplift you, and seek out moments of laughter and connection. One of the things I like to do is participate in activities that remind me of my loved one because we either did it together or talked about doing it one day. Playing slots allows me to be with my mom. We both enjoyed it and I still do at times. I often find myself talking to her while I’m playing and it always warms my heart.
6. Embrace the New Normal:
Grief changes us, and part of navigating it is learning to adapt to a "new normal." Allow yourself to grow through the process, and be patient with yourself as you adjust to life without your loved one. Embrace the lessons learned from your grief journey and use them to shape your altered path. One thing I’ve learned is death is a reminder to live. Because of that, I’ve found a few “new normals” for myself. One in particular is absolutely zero tolerance to share my time or energy with just anybody. Plain and simple, everyone doesn’t deserve a seat at my table or yours.
7. Seek Professional Support:
If grief becomes overwhelming and affects your daily life, seeking support from a mental health professional or grief counselor can be incredibly beneficial. They can provide you with tools and techniques to cope with your emotions and navigate the challenges of grief. I’ve never personally sought professional support for grief but I have for other challenges I’ve faced in life and both times I found it effective. As a life coach, I would recommend therapy or grief counseling to a client if I see certain telltale signs such as unhealthy habits evolving or my client clearly identifies as being lost and completely overwhelmed.
I know, the concepts I’ve shared here aren’t necessarily easy, but most of us grow through the challenging times. Loving life after loss is a journey of resilience, healing, and rediscovery. While grief will always be a part of your story, it doesn't have to define your entire narrative. By acknowledging your feelings, being intentional about embracing memories, and practicing self-care, you can navigate grief and find moments of joy and meaning in life once again. Remember, it's okay to grieve and you deserve to heal. Your loved one's legacy lives on through the way you continue to live and cultivate joy so make them proud.
As always, I like to share a few self-coaching questions for you or someone you love who may be going through a period of grief. While the grief here is specifically focused on death, we also grieve the loss of love, jobs, friends and a host of other things. If these concepts work for the most extreme case of grief, death, I’m confident you can apply the same to other losses as well.
Self-Coaching Questions:
1. How can I create space for my emotions and honor my feelings of grief without judgment?
2. What self-care practices resonate with me and can help me find moments of solace and rejuvenation?
3. How can I integrate the cherished memories of my loved one into my life to keep their spirit alive?
4. What activities or hobbies have the potential to bring me joy and uplift my spirits?
5. How can I navigate the process of adapting to a new normal while nurturing self-compassion, grace and patience?
This blog is dedicated to the loving memory all of my loved ones who have departed and for all of my loved ones who remain.

With love always,
Coach Kim

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