How to be a beginner

Feb 22, 2024

In life after the loss of a spouse, you find yourself having to be a beginner at a lot of things. Things you’d rather not have to learn. At a time when your brain isn’t functioning normally. It can be overwhelming.

Even not-grieving adults aren’t generally good at being beginners.

Kids, on the other hand, are great beginners.

But at some point in our development, we stop allowing ourselves to be beginners.

We think we have to be perfect or not do it at all. We fear failure, embarrassment, or ridicule. We don’t believe we can.  

The brain offers a litany of limiting beliefs, suggesting that we fail ahead of time, by never getting started, to prevent actually failing, and all the difficult emotions that comes with it.

"Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will." I don’t know who to attribute that quote to, but it’s spot on.

And being a beginner is exponentially tougher in grief. There is already a great deal of fear and uncertainty. Grief is incredibly taxing on our mental abilities. The brain fog is real.

We have double the tasks and half the energy. And in the middle of the biggest catastrophe of life, we’re supposed to learn how to do new things.

It’s ironic. But yes, we do have to learn. And it is possible.

The following tips will help.

First, believe in your ability to learn, even  now. It won’t be at the same pace as before. You'll likely be more forgetful than your past self. You might need to pull out your phone and record a video or take pictures. It will look different, but you can learn.

Second, prioritize what you are going to learn. I prioritized based on the frequency of something needing my attention. For example, if it needed my attention weekly, I committed to learning it, no matter how long it took. For me this was learning how to replace and repair sprinklers.

If it occurred monthly or quarterly, those were next priorities. If it was annually, it took a lower priority. And if it occurred infrequently, like when the dishwasher breaks, I chose not to hold myself responsible to learn it at all.

I have a friend who is a former truck driver, and in the early years after my loss, I would occasionally tow a horse trailer or a travel trailer. He was happy to ride with me, and I never hesitated to call him. I’d often say, “It’s your day to watch me.” It was something that I did so infrequently that I felt better with his help.

Also, prioritize one thing you actually want to learn. For me, this was welding. It was the first time I found myself having fun. It was refreshing to learn something that actually interested me.

Later I trained in Krav Maga, the Israeli form of self-defense. It was good for me in many ways. Both welding and Krav showed me that I could still learn. 

Third, lean on your people, like my truck driver friend. Another neighbor and friend sincerely wanted to help me, but like so many, didn’t know how. When I wasn’t sure how much air I should put in my tires, I called him and he was thrilled to offer his help.

The only growing natural resource is the wisdom of older adults. My 90-something year old neighbor Harry offered lots of practical advice for country living, taught me how to prune rose bushes, and when I told him how offended I was when someone offered to set me up on a date so soon after my loss, he said, “You tell them you have a boyfriend and his name is Harry.” The coffee and the entertainment were unlimited.

Many people can only help in practical ways. It’s the only way they know how to express their love and support. Let’s not deny them the chance to do so.

Another form of leaning on your people is to make a list of professionals you trust for a variety of needs (or ask a friend to do so). For example, when the tree limb breaks, when you need electrical or plumbing work done. I have a Who To Call list that you can fill out or ask a friend to do so. Download it for free by clicking here: When you have a plan in place, you'll feel more prepared for the unexpected. 

And lean on YouTube. It’s a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips.

It will also help to think about when you were a beginner in  the past. You did it then, and you can do it now.

The following will help you. 

Tell yourself:

I’m new at this, and that’s okay.

I can learn new things at my pace.

I’m learning how to help myself learn.

Say to others:

I’m new at this, can you tell me about it?

Tell me more.

I’m learning, can you explain further?

Please say it differently.

Help me understand.

Vincent Van Gogh is quoted as saying, “I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.”

Grieving itself is learning. And grieving a spouse presents a long list of things to learn. Expect yourself to learn differently now, prioritize what you’ll learn, lean on your people, and believe in yourself. You have already survived the worst. You can do this, too.

Learn more about Life Reconstructed.

Click here

Stay connected.

JoinĀ the mailing list to receive the latestĀ blog, news and updates.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.