I am not who I was two months ago. Back then, one of my primary roles was caregiver to my mom. Now that role is finished. Forever. While relinquishing the caregiver role is a relief in many ways, it also leaves a vacuum. And that vacuum impacts my identity. If I’m no longer a caregiver, who am I? Thus, the loss of my mother has placed me on a path of redefining my life—whether I’m ready to face that question or not.
What is my purpose in life now Mom is gone? What are my new priorities? My new goals? These are the kind of questions I am facing in this transitional time. Transitions such as this can be unsettling. I am on the precipice of something new, but I don’t yet know where I’m headed or how to get there.
Reflections on redefining my life after loss
Most of us don’t enjoy the uncertainty that comes with transitions like this. However, if I want to live intentionally and make the most of my life, I will choose to see this time as a blessing and an opportunity rather than something to fear or avoid. I hope you can do the same when loss suddenly tips your life into a time of transition.
Bruce Feiler, author of Life is in the Transitions writes, “Lifequakes may be voluntary or involuntary, but navigating the transitions that flow from them can only be voluntary.”
He also writes: “We can’t ignore these central times of life; we can’t wish or will them away. We have to accept them, name them, mark them, share them, and eventually convert them into a new and vital fuel for remaking our life stories.”
Here are some suggestions to help you remake your life story after a big loss.
Redefining my life means I accept that I am no longer who I was. The previous season of life has come to its natural end. Like a tree in autumn, I must allow the old leaves of my life to fall away to make space for new ones to grow.
“To become something else, you have to stop being what you are now. To start doing things a new way, you have to end the way you are doing them now. To develop a new attitude or outlook, you have to let go of the old.”William Bridges
Letting go isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. We can’t fully redefine ourselves if we’re clinging to the old version of who we were, what was important, and where we were headed. Redefining our lives involves taking stock of our priorities, goals, dreams, and habits. Which ones were important in the previous phase of life but are no longer necessary?
For example, let’s say that while taking care of Mom, I decided traveling away from the area was a risk I couldn’t afford. The priority to stay nearby was important while she was alive, but now she’s gone that priority no longer makes sense. I would be foolish to hold tightly to that priority when it hinders the possibilities of what I could be enjoying in the next season.
Thus, transition seasons provide us with opportunities to declutter our spaces of no-longer-necessary stuff. Not just our physical living and working spaces, but also our schedules, our heads (i.e. those pesky unhelpful soundtracks) and our hearts and souls.
Don’t rush it.
I know, I know. Slow is HARD for most of us. But research says it takes 3-5 years to fully work through a major life transition. Also, Health professionals warn against making major life decisions too soon after facing a loss.
In other words, while we may be tempted to fill the vacuum created by the loss as soon as possible, it’s not a wise choice. We may feel angsty about the scary unknowns of a transition, but it’s better to take things slowly. We honor the loss by allowing time for our lives to adjust from the old to the new.
Remember that firebrand, the apostle Paul? After the Damascus Road experience, he was a transformed man. But it was many years later before he reappeared in the Acts narrative and began his evangelistic work. If someone as educated, intelligent, determined as Paul needed years to redefine his new life and ministry, we probably need more than a few weeks to figure out who we are in our next phase of life.
Therefore, set an intention to pause, reflect, pray, and seek counsel from wise friends before accepting new roles or starting new projects. You’ll be glad you did.
Embrace the fallow season before a new spring.
Another benefit of not rushing into the next phase of life is the period of rest it provides. Transitions can be like rest stops along the way—times to slow down, rest, reflect, and spend time on self-care. After a season of trauma, we need these fallow times more than we realize.
“…fallow seasons aren’t meant for hurry. They’re meant to undo the hardwired muscle memory of labor, to reorient our bodies, minds, and souls to the unrushed pace of God. They’re meant to teach us to dance to the unforced rhythms of grace.”Grace P. Cho on AnnVoscamp.com
We can make peace with the slowness and seeming unproductivity of a fallow season, trusting that God is using it to prepare us for new and exciting things. (Even if it feels like nothing is happening.)
Redefining my life takes intention
Most of us will face major life transitions many times throughout our adult lives. To repeat the quote from above, “Lifequakes may be voluntary or involuntary, but navigating the transitions that flow from them can only be voluntary.”
We must choose to navigate our transitions wisely. The more intentional we are about redefining our lives slowly and thoughtfully, the easier we’ll find it to navigate through the changes to a positive and purposeful future.