Ask Annah: Why Do I Feel Worse 2-3 Years after My Significant Life Loss Event

Annah Elizabeth Ask Annah, Loss, Grief, and Healing, Mental Health 0 Comments

Dear Journeyer,

I am often asked some variation of this question:

“It’s been three years since my child/parent/sibling/spouse/best friend died and I feel worse now than I did when it happened. What is wrong with me?”

Though this query often references the death of a person, I have also heard it with regard to other forms of loss, including but not limited to Divorce, The Empty Nest, Pet Loss, and Health Diagnosis, to name a few.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned and have to offer, Journeyer.

  1. No. You are not going crazy; you’re not “abnormal” or “slow” or ” a lost cause,” or any other phrases you might have asked about or called yourself.
  2. The first year following a Significant Life Loss Event (SLLE)♥ is what I call “The Shock and Taking Care of Business” phase. Your body produces a sort of natural anesthia following an “unexpected” or major life loss event. I say “unexpected” because, even if we know something is going to happen, we never know the exact second, so in those “known or planned” scenarios, there is still that anticipation of not knowing, which bears its own marks on us. This shock phase is a bit like the Novocain the dentist uses before dealing with tooth decay, only it tends to last longer. Additionally, during these types of losses, you have much business to take care of. You may have funerals or cremations and headstones to choose and purchase. You may have financial issues that need to be addressed, estates to settle, or legal systems to navigate. [Insert your whatever.] Above all else, you are thrust into learning a new way of living, of moving forward without the “What-has-gone-missing-from-my-life.” Your post-loss To-Do list can be extensive.
  3. The second year following an SLLE, your natural shock protection begins to wear off, if it hasn’t already, exposing you to a fuller feeling of your emotions. The “work” you had to do has either been completed or you have created some semblance of a new routine managing the unresolved details. This year also begins a long list of “Firsts,” first holidays and other special events–be they pre-planned or perennial–that will be much different than you’ve previously experienced in real life or in your dream states.
  4. The third year often begins the “finality” of your situation. You begin to fully comprehend–within your mind, body, and soul–that the “What-has-gone-missing-from-my-life” will never again exist in the form you had come to rely on and the one you expected it to always be.
  5. EVERY situation and EVERY person are unique. EVERY single one of them. Life is not always linear. Loss is not always linear. Grief is not always linear. Healing is not always linear. And just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither is your life, your grief, or your healing.
  6. It’s okay to not be okay, sometimes.
  7. You can go on to live happy and feeling fulfilled, to live your BEST personal, professional, and philanthropic life–THE LIFE YOU DESERVE–even in the face of your adversity.
  8. You were born with everything you need to heal your heartaches big and small.
  9. The first step in The 5 Steps of Healing is to Choose Grief, to honor your sadness and suffering, for without grief there would be no need for healing.
  10. You’ve got this, Journeyer, and like Kate Braestrup says, I’m here if you need me.

Significant Life Loss Event (SLLE)♥ – ANY form of loss that shakes your personal foundation to the core. The loss typically has an impact on two or more of your 5 Facets and you will often identify with two or more of The 5 D umbrella loss categories.

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