What’s next? 3 lessons I learned when making decisions after loss.

On of my favorite TV shows of the early 2000’s is The West Wing. It is set in the white house and revolves around the president and his staff. President Bartlett, played by Martin Sheen, would always ask, “What’s next?” after an issue has been discussed. It signaled that he was ready to move on to the next challenge.

business-woman-1692443After a loss, the thought of what’s next is scary. And if we are still in the middle of the grieving process, the question is unfathomable. We are still mourning the loss of what we had and what we planned for the future.

Just days after my husband died, family members would bombard me with the question, “what are you going to do now?” I had no answer for them. I did not know what I was going to do. In one moment I lost everything, my husband, my hopes for the future, and my security. And their relentless asking did not help me. I felt trapped. They expected me to have an answer and a plan. I could barley put one foot in front of another. How could I know what I was suppose to do next?

So what did I do? I did what I needed to be done. I took one day at a time. I got up, made the bed, saw that my son got to school, cleaned house, did the laundry, went to the grocery store, cooked meals, paid the bills and cried. I did what I knew to do.

In the beginning it was overwhelming. Every challenge was magnified and difficult. My confidence was gone. Making decisions was a monumental task. I remember the day I couldn’t start the lawn mower. I didn’t know what was wrong with it. Maybe it had sit to long without use. Or maybe it was old and needed replaced. I didn’t know what to do. It caused me to meltdown. All I could think was “why did you leave me here alone? I can’t do this by myself.”

Since then I have made many decisions. Some where based on advice and pressure, others were made due to circumstances and some where made out of desire. Some were good decisions and others were wonderful lessons. The following are lessons I learned while making decisions about what’s next in my life.

  • Listen to your inner voice. You know what is best for you. During your time of grief, it is hard to hear your inner voice. It is okay not to act quickly on most decisions. You will know when the time is right for you. Give yourself time to grieve.
  • Be ware of unsolicited advice.  Many well meaning people will offer advice on what you should do next. Most of them will respect your choices. Others will to to “fix” your grieving while some may try to control you and your decisions for their advantage. Trust your instincts and set boundaries with those who want to tell you what to do.
  • Be yourself. Don’t let other people put you in their box. If you are an introvert, don’t let others convince you to stay busy. And if you are an extrovert don’t let them shame you for staying busy and being social. Do what comes naturally to you. It will help you move forward and discover what is next.

Finally, unless the matter needs to be handled in a timely manner, take your time. You do not need to make life changing decisions until you are ready. If you make life changing decisions to soon, you may end up regretting them. Your what’s next will evolve in time. And the truth is, life is ever changing and moving. What’s next is always on the horizon.

As always I welcome your feedback and questions. You can leave them in the comments below. If you like what you read let me know with a thumbs up.

Remember that you are not alone, I am here to walk along side of you.

Ethel

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