On Rebuilding Your Life After Loss

The older I get, the more I see how many forms real loss can take. Whether in the form of a lost friendship, the passing of a loved one, the loss of a relationship, loss is real. Loss is physically painful. Loss is absolute. And loss is not forgotten. I am hard pressed to find a feeling worse than the morning after loss. The first morning after a break up. You know, when you stay in that moment of almost dreaming, almost awake. And for a few minutes you completely and utterly believe that loss has not taken place. You genuinely can feel that ex lying next to you. You almost pick up the phone to call that lost loved one, or that lost friend. That is what I mean by complete loss. When a relationship can be so important to you, you physically feel its absence. When that absence makes you break down on your way home from work (in public, no less) because someone is wearing purple, and he loved purple, and once he bought you purple flowers, and he’ll never buy you purple flowers again. The pain of loss is real, the pain of loss is absolute. But the pain of real loss… It goes away. My last significant loss was a break up I’ve written posts on several times before. My last relationship shattered me so powerfully I felt I would never be put back together. Like I could never even find the person I was before this monumental relationship and overwhelming pain. For weeks I cried, totally randomly, in big weeping fits. For weeks I woke up thinking it could be different. I even tried to convince him it could be different, which was absolutely ridiculous. Why do we do these insane things when we are overcoming loss? Because it’s easier than rebuilding. To actually work through grief and loss and to come out on the other end, is a fucking job. And you can’t force it, and you can’t expect it to be easy, but you have to know it takes work. My solution for rebuilding after loss was simple. Run. I trained for a half marathon and I never stopped. I talked about it with everyone I could trust. I wrote about it. I left my apartment when I most felt like being alone. I forced myself to go out with new friends when I most wanted to curl up into a ball. I worked on being happy and rebuilding my life again more than I think I ever had. Most days were impossible, until they weren’t. I thought about him every second of every day, until I didn’t. It hurt until I didn’t feel anything for him anymore. And that’s just how it works. Now, it’s almost a year later, and I’ve never been happier. Does the loss still hurt? Of course. Just recently I sent an “I have been thinking about you” email. Why? Because a loss like that never really leaves you. You rebuild from it, you grow from it, you grow away from it, but it’s still there. The only real way to rebuild after a loss, any loss, is to accept that fact. You have to rebuild your life, but that loss that brought you to that point—it will never leave. It just gets a little farther and farther away until one day that person crying on public transit because she saw the color purple makes you laugh—because that’s not you at all anymore. And you made it. And you’re better off because of it. [Lead image via Evdokimov Maxim/Shutterstock]