Collateral Damage

Jun 25, 2021

In the early days of life after loss, what is overwhelmingly obvious is our spouse’s physical absence. It is ironic that the one person with whom you most need to talk, whose arms you most need wrapped around you, is the person who is glaringly absent.

Soon it becomes clear that we’ve not only lost our person in the present moment, but also our shared past and planned future.

Each of those losses – past, present and future – can be disorienting and debilitating.

As time goes on, the collateral damage also reveals itself.  

Well-established and long-respected boundaries are suddenly being tested.

Old acquaintances drop a note suggesting you connect for lunch.

Well-intentioned people ask, “How are you?”

You sit in church alone for the first time ever.

You’re the humble recipient of the support of your neighbors.

Or you have more needs than ever and you’re not the recipient of any support.

The tree limb falls. The hot water heater breaks. The car needs tires.

You ruminate about how you could have been a better spouse.

Financially speaking, you alone now support yourself.

The list is endless.

Here are three tips for when you feel like you’re drowning in the collateral damage of loss.

  1. Give yourself some grace. There was a massive dividing line dropped into your life, marking the “before” and the “after.” Now everything is different, including the things you expected would be the same. Collateral damage is unpredictable. Don’t expect yourself to anticipate what’s coming. Whenever you do experience it, simply say to yourself, “His death means this, too.”
  2. Don’t hold yourself responsible for navigating it “perfectly.” There will be things you didn’t see coming. You’ll be caught off guard. You will feel uncertain. There is no such thing as doing it all perfectly. There is only the way that you will do it.
  3. Activate acceptance. Try on the preface, “This is the part when…..” This is the part when the pipe breaks, the dog is sick or the car won’t start. This is the part when an old friend suddenly wants to be in my life. This is the part when I figure out how to support myself financially. It doesn’t mean that you like it, but it skips the part where you argue with it (which feels extra terrible).

Navigating collateral damage is best done from a place of observation without judgment. We don’t learn when we’re sitting in judgment because we’re too busy kicking ourselves for doing it “wrong.” Instead, observe what’s happened, acknowledge that you did your best in the moment and then refine your strategy for the future.

If collateral damage has you overwhelmed and paralyzed, I see you. My private coaching program called Life Reconstructed shows you how to navigate it all and have your own back, and that’s just the beginning. If you’re ready to try something different in order to get different results, simply click here and we’ll see if it’s a fit.

Simply click here and we'll see if it's a fit.

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