Chapter 1: What does “feeling better” look and feel like?

Signs of feeling better

I've been there
Bonnie says we can look forward to another life. (3:22)Video transcript
I’m finding a “new normal”After the death of someone important, you will likely never return to "normal" but you can find a "new normal" for your daily life. You are letting go of what was and accepting what is.

When you think of the person who died, tears may flow. Your “new normal” could be similar to your life before the death or it could be radically different. Your loss will always hurt, but for most people the pain will not be as sharp and will not be there all the time.
Accepting the death

One sign that you are feeling better is moving away from asking, “Why did this happen?” to “I accept their death, now what do I do?”

You had no choice about going through this loss, but we can always choose how to respond to difficult experiences beyond our control.

In accepting the death, we acknowledge that it happened and that it changed us. We are then left trying to go forward while resisting the part of us that does not want to move.

I have more energy now"It didn’t seem important at the time but I decided to clean the house. I felt so good afterwards. When the house felt more organized and ordered, so did I."

Over the course of your grief, life will start to be more predictable again. Your weekly schedule starts to fall into place. You start to go out more and talk to people. You might start a class or start to cook again. You might get back to daily exercising. Overall, you feel more interested and motivated to do things.

You may have an appetite for food again, and get more regular sleep. If you have lost a spouse, the nights might become less scary. You begin to feel less lonely and perhaps you begin to get used to sleeping alone.
I can make decisions now"I came to a major decision about the car. Actually it was his car, and he loved it so much. I always had mixed feelings about it, but it felt like such a betrayal to sell it. Once I made the decision that it was time for the car to go, it really freed me to make the changes to the rest of the house, and my life."

Over time it will become easier for you to focus and make decisions. You'll worry less about making mistakes. Maybe things get easier because you are less worried about the person who has died. Your memories will always be with you, and as you regain confidence, your thoughts will change, allowing you to live your life fully.
I’m starting to enjoy life again"I find myself with friends at the coffee shop more and more. It feels good to be out again with people talking about this and that. I was afraid I would never experience those nice feelings again."

Eventually, there will be more time in between the distressing moments. The difficult moments will be shorter and less painful, and it will take you less time to recover from them.

Your life will start to become enjoyable again. You may rediscover things you used to enjoy. You may feel lighter inside, more independent, and confident that, despite its hardships, life has its beautiful moments and is still worth living.
I’m feeling less guilty now"For a long time I was haunted by feelings of guilt about something mean I said to him before he died. I said it in a moment of high stress and I deeply regretted it the moment it left my lips. I realized that I had to find a way to let it go. Our relationship was a lot more than just the moment he died. I was there with him through everything else. In the end, that will have to be enough."

In grief, there is almost always some guilt. The hard part is to realize that you can choose how to respond to your guilt. Finding ways to let go of guilt can bring about a sense of freedom and allow you to focus your energy on more productive things like making plans for the future.
I’m making new plans"There was this turning point, I am not even sure when it was exactly. I just remember one week I started to feel calmer inside. I felt more ready to live again."

With time, many people who are grieving find they are able to start making new plans. Some people finish home renovations that were postponed when the cancer was first diagnosed. Others decide to take up a hobby, learn a new skill, or take a course. Overall, we feel more confident that we can see something through to the end.

You might feel more comfortable with how things are and stop trying to get back to how things were.
I’m more open to change"When an opportunity presents itself, I find myself surprised at how open I am to consider it, and even embrace it."

Being more flexible is an important sign that you’ve started to heal. If you are open to change, you’ll have more options for the future. Having more options can make you feel more in control of your life, especially after going through a loss that you had no control over.

Being more open to the possibilities of life can give us hope.
Letting go of certain thingsMaybe one of the hardest things to come to terms with is the death of someone with whom you had a difficult relationship. You may be faced with very mixed feelings like relief, guilt, bitterness, and regret.

In almost all relationships, there is some unfinished business. You may be trying to understand why someone acted the way they did or you may find yourself replaying certain conversations or scenes that hurt you deeply. The more complicated the relationship, sometimes the more difficult the grief. Leaving behind a difficult relationship takes a lot of courage. It can sometimes mean having to let go of certain thoughts or feelings we have had for a long time.
I’m finding a “new normal”After the death of someone important, you will likely never return to "normal" but you can find a "new normal" for your daily life. You are letting go of what was and accepting what is.

When you think of the person who died, tears may flow. Your “new normal” could be similar to your life before the death or it could be radically different. Your loss will always hurt, but for most people the pain will not be as sharp and will not be there all the time.