What If Questions After a Loss

A loved one has died. Even if you knew their death was eminent, you’re in total shock. You feel sad, anxious, and confused. Before death knocked on your door, you had some control over life. Now life seems out of control. Worse, you have more questions than answers. Many are “What if” questions.

What would have happened if I and been better prepared?

What if I had better coping skills?

And what if I had responded differently to death?

From What If to What Questions

Questions like these are usually associated with the past. Since the past is gone, you may as well focus on the future, and start asking “What” questions.

What have I done with my life?

What do I want to do?

And what will it take to accomplish these things?

Questions like these are normal. You’re evaluating your life, a process that can take weeks, months, and in some instances, years. As time passes, your thoughts may change and that’s normal too. “What” questions can be liberating. Answering them helps you believe in the future.

You Can Thrive

Irish poet John O’Donohue, author of To Bless the Space Between Us, would describe this time of life as coming home to yourself. While the death of a loved one changes you, at the core of your being you’re the same—someone with the same talents, education, and experience you aways had. Instead of merely surviving, you can make a conscious decision to thrive.

Your loved one’s love can become the foundation of a new life, a life you build brick by brick. Each brick is important.

While grieving people share many symptoms, your grief is unique. This a time to be gentle with yourself. Take all the time you need to process “What if” and “What” questions. Grief expert David Kessler, co-author of On Grief and Grieving and Life Lessons with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, thinks finding meaning is the next stage of grief. We agree with him.

After the What If Questions

Finding meaning can be a surprising experience. You may take alternate routes or go in new life directions. Slowly and steadily, you begin to realize you’re stronger than you originally thought. There’s a wellspring of strength within you. As you find meaning—and good—in each day, laughter tiptoes back into your life. The first belly laugh (and you will have one) feels good. And right.

Heather Lende, obituary writer for the Chilcat Valley News in Alaska, experienced sadness and chose joy. As she writes in Finding the Good, “My house is getting messier in direct proportion to my optimism.” Life is never perfect, Lende continues, but pretty good is better than perfect. You have the power to create a pretty good life for yourself.

Asking questions helps you learn and grow, yet the time will come when you’re willing to leave “What if” questions behind. You are alive. Deep in your heart, you know your loved one would want you to be happy. Create the future you deserve and welcome it with outstretched arms.

Read Drs. Gloria and Heidi Horsley’s book: Open to Hope: Inspirational Stories for Handling the Holidays After Loss: Dr. Gloria Horsley, Dr. Heidi Horsley: 9780983639916: Books (amazon.com)

Read more on Open to Hope: https://www.opentohope.com/grieving-childre…we-can-help-them/

Dr. Gloria and Dr. Heidi Horsley

Dr. Gloria Horsley and Dr. Heidi Horsley are a mother/daughter team and internationally recognized grief experts. They are the founders of The Open to Hope Foundation and the hosts of The Open to Hope Show. In addition, Dr. Gloria is a board member for The Compassionate Friends and Dr. Heidi is an adjunct professor at Columbia University and has a private practice in manhattan. Their message is that others have made it through the grief journey and so can you, if you do not yet have hope lean on theirs.

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