Living a New Reality—Life After a Bereavement

April 11, 2016
The other day I received a newsletter from a Feldenkrais practitioner who is recovering from a broken arm. As I read about her journey towards recovery, I realized there were a lot of similarities to my own journey of emotional recovery after my recent bereavement. My colleague shared her experience and the lessons she had learned along the way and it inspired me to share what I’ve learned over the past six weeks as I navigate a new life path.
When my husband passed away on February 9th of this year the reality of the life change I was about to embark on hit me squarely in the face. The cold hard facts are, the change is forever and it is going to impact every aspect of my life. There was never any question that I would be able to cope. I’m a very strong, independent person so that wasn’t it. It was the loss of a life partner and best friend I’d spent the last 46 years with and the realization he was irrevocably gone that ambushed me emotionally. I was left with what amounted to a major amputation and scar I would have to learn to live with for the rest of my life.
I have now put some space between me and my bereavement and am getting used to my new reality. For me healing includes writing so this seems an appropriate time to begin to share my experiences and learning. Perhaps it will help those of you who have suffered a recent loss and others to prepare for what ultimately lies ahead whether it is in the next few months or years away.

I am in recovery from one of the most traumatic experiences I will ever go through so as with a physical injury, I need to remember the following:

* Loss is painful and emotional pain is every bit as real as physical pain. When I am highly activated and feeling emotional pain I have to be willing to move through it.

* It takes courage to accept and embrace change. Friends are more than willing to support me so let them do that.

* It takes time to heal. The body and the nervous system are amazing and given enough time can adapt to changes. I need to cut myself some slack and not have any expectations for when things will “go back to normal”.

* After suffering the traumatic event of February 9th my perceptions are often skewed. When making important decisions I need to make sure I talk to other people and get expert advice because my judgement may be impaired and I don’t want to do something I’ll regret down the line.

* After the trauma my physical resources were depleted so I need to make sure I take care of my physical needs.

* I also need to delegate jobs that other people can do for me so I have more time to rest and restore myself. Since I have a fairly big property to maintain I can hire someone to clean and do yard work so I have time to devote to the things only I can look after. (I actually did this already and I’m glad I did.)

Some other points to ponder for those who haven’t yet experienced a major bereavement:

Make every minute count.

  • Make every minute with your spouse, parents and children count. Don’t leave unfinished business at the end of the day. One of the most important concepts in my life philosophy has been to hold each day as a precious gift and make sure I have no regrets before I go to bed. When death occurs without warning as it did in my husband’s case there is no time to say goodbye or ask for forgiveness for past arguments or slights. That saying, “Live today as if there were no tomorrow” is so true. I can honestly say there wasn’t one thing I wish I had taken the time to do or say--that means so much after the fact.

Dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

  • Due diligence is important and as uncomfortable as it makes us, estate planning beforehand makes things a lot easier for those that are left to pick up the pieces. Each one of us has to face our own mortality at some point but even more importantly we need to recognize that with our own departure there are people left that have to deal with the realities of living in a society that wants everything documented. Without the appropriate documentation life can be very complicated and extremely unpleasant at a time when all you want to do is grieve. In my case we had very good advisors over the past few years that have made this time of transition so much easier. There have been a few glitches but on the whole they have been minor and I’ve been able to work around them. One area that you may not have thought about is credit cards. Are you the primary card holder or is it your spouse? In my case I just happened to be the primary card holder so it wasn’t a problem but if I hadn’t been the card would have been frozen and I would have been hooped. As it was, the bank did stop my line of credit because it was in both our names and based on our joint credit. I now have to reapply even though I was the principle earner in the family and the bank is not making it an easy transition.

Be compassionate with yourself.

  • Your whole life is going to change and it takes time to adapt to those changes. A close friend who lost her husband just over a year ago said to me the other day, “Sandra, it’s getting through the first year that’s the hardest.” With that in mind I’m so grateful that I have always been proactive in having a large support system including relatives, friends, colleagues and other like-minded people in a 12 step program I have been involved in for the past 37 years. When I start ranting about having so many things to deal with there always seems to be someone close by to listen and support me through my melt down.

The big questions can wait.

  • What am I going to do? Should I sell my house, stay put, move closer to my children and grandchildren? I have been told on good authority that those life altering questions should be put on hold for a year after your bereavement. Sometimes that’s not possible but if you’re financially stable don’t make any big decisions right away as you may feel completely different a year down the road. Fortunately, in my case there won’t be any big decision regarding where I am going to plant myself as I love where I live and I run my home based business from my house. For the present I know I will stay put.

Get back into a routine as soon as you can handle it.

  • With a major bereavement life becomes an emotional roller coaster ride. However, it will feel a lot better if you have a routine you can fall back on. I took three weeks off with the idea that I would go back to work once the immediate shock had worn off and I could cope. I’m so glad I did because that has helped me feel more in balance. There are enough empty hours of the day to fill now I’m on my own so getting back to work was a blessing.

Have an attitude of gratitude.

I can’t have my old life back but I am grateful for all the help, support, kind thoughts, shared memories and so much more that has come my way in the past six weeks. There are moments of sadness and deep longing for what I had but there is also hope for a future filled with good times, and I know I will make new memories that will fill my heart and transform my loss.


Sandra Bradshaw, Guild Certified Feldenkrais® Practitioner and Functional Movement Specialist will help you to boost your capacity to move effortlessly. With a background in special education, yoga, functional movement, and music, Sandra integrates this knowledge with the latest brain research to help you find solutions to your personal needs that are effective and long lasting. If you are interested in more information or would like to make an appointment, call Sandra today at 250 862 8489.

The Feldenkrais Method® created by physicist Moshe Feldenkrais, PhD., combines precisely structured movement sequences with the latest advances in brain research; it will help you recover from specific areas of injury such as the neck and shoulders or to improve fluidity and ease in sports, recreational activities or life. Join the ranks of such notables as actress Whoopi Goldberg, cellist YoYo Ma and the members of the Canadian Men’s Alpine Ski Team in experiencing the benefits of this method.

Tags: feldenkrais, Feldenkrais practitioner, bereavement, recovery, life change, new life path, dealing with death, loss, heal, nervous system, expert advice, trauma from loss,


Amazing words Sandra. You are such an amazing woman xx

- Jude

Thank you for sharing your experience Sandra. You are such a strong woman. I am sure many others who have suffered loss with appreciate your words of wisdom. xx

- Jude

Valuable insight.... thank you for sharing Sandra. Big hugs for your continued journey.

- Barb Bell

What beautiful and deep insight you have Sandra. I learned a lot reading this post - thank you for sharing personal thoughts and healing journey. I believe that emotional healing is more challenging than physical - physical we can see and touch; emotional is invisible -yet powerful -both good and bad. I\'m so happy to know you and I think of you often.\r\n

- Melanie

Thank you Sandra for sharing your experience, strength, and hope.

- Valerie

Feldenkrais®, Feldenkrais Method®, Awareness Through Movement®, and Functional Integration® are registered service marks of the Feldenkrais Guild® of North America. Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner ™ and Guild Certified Feldenkrais Teacher ™ are certification marks of the Feldenkrais Guild®.