We build our lives upon a foundation, with each subsequent building block representing those things which we value the most. Adding blocks through cultivating relationships, creating plans, and imagining hopes and dreams contributes to a greater sense of stability and fulfillment. Whenever we experience a loss, be it through death, divorce, career changes, or even unfulfilled expectations, blocks are taken away—requiring us to readjust and accommodate for the change.
Different types of losses produce varying degrees of impact, some much more significant than others. Regardless of the cause of our loss, finding tools to repair periodically and rebuild our lives allows us to develop greater resilience against the inevitable periods of grieving we are faced with throughout our lifetime.
Often, when we lose something, it can be tempting to try and “fill the gap” with a replacement. Anyone who has lost a pet knows that running out to get a new pet doesn’t solve the underlying issue of grief. Instead, we need to address the specific thing, or piece, that was taken away. The cause of pain is not only about the item or person who we lost, but rather the severed connection. Part of rebuilding is honoring the feeling of loss while building new bonds and strengthening the general structure of our lives.
Creating a Life Balance Wheel
Rebuilding our lives can seem like a nebulous undertaking when we lack a clear understanding of our priorities and values. That’s why heightened self-reflection during times of change can help guide us forward. If you’re feeling a little lost on how to evaluate your life, consider making a Life Balance Wheel. This popular coaching tool helps pinpoint areas of weakness or dissatisfaction that can be worked on to enhance our overall level of happiness.
To create a Life Balance Wheel, simply draw a circle and divide it into eight different sections. Label each section with a significant area of your life. You can undoubtedly personalize these however you see fit. Some of the most common areas to include are things like: friends/social life, health and wellbeing, work/career, finances, romance, professional or personal growth, home/family, and life mission.
Next, consider each section and rate it on a scale between 1-10, where one is “unsatisfied,” and ten is “completely satisfied.” Rather than focusing on how much time you devote to the particular section, try to think only about how satisfied you feel about it. It’s possible for someone who makes a lot of money to be unsatisfied with this area of life, not necessarily because it is lacking but because they aren’t happy with it. By creating a wheel rather than a list, it’s easier to conceptualize how putting more emphasis on one area may reduce the focus or satisfaction with other areas.
While it seems simple enough, many of us don’t regularly step back to contemplate the big picture of our life to look at where we are now and where we want to go. When our status quo is shaken up by loss, taking the opportunity to reflect before trying to push forward or haphazardly filling the void offers better insight for a complete healing process.
Set Your Intentions Using Words or Images
Another strategy for defining the direction we want to go in is through the creation of a vision board. Vision boards use images to represent the ideas and beliefs which are essential to us. With magazine cutouts, photographs, drawings, or even online image tools (like Pinterest), we can formulate a clear picture of our intentions. Once created, a vision board can serve as a reminder and reinforcement for the way we want to live and how we want to focus our time.
A similar strategy preferred by the more verbally-inclined is writing a “wellness vision.” A wellness vision is a group of statements that outlines how you visualize your ideal self and lifestyle. When creating a wellness vision, address questions such as:
- “What does my day to day schedule look like?”
- “Where will I live or work?”
- “What will my home life be like?”
- “How will I feel? (peaceful/energized/fulfilled?).”
The more detail you can provide in your wellness vision, the more effective it will be as an all-encompassing view of your intentions.
Regardless of your chosen method, it’s important to remember that vision boards and wellness visions should be working documents. It’s okay to change the plan, add to or remove ideas that no longer appeal to you. Keep these personal expressions as private or public as you want. While some prefer to share with friends for added accountability, others use these tools as a private means of personal development.
Grief is one reason to make a vision board or write a wellness vision, but there are plenty of other times in life when these tools can be helpful as well. Anytime you’re transitioning to a different stage of life, moving to a new place, taking on a new role, or looking to get un-stuck, taking some time to define how you’d like to see your future play out can make all the difference in your ultimate outcomes.
In the same way that recovery from grief requires a proactive approach and concerted effort, so does making any life change. Losing weight, quitting smoking, saving money, or improving friendships doesn’t just happen without some intention, determination, and consistency. Creating new habits usually involves getting out of our comfort zones and doing things differently. After all, it’s never realistic to expect a different output when our input doesn’t change.
Deciding to Take a Side Road
An underrated, but common, source of grief is disappointment. Experiencing a miscarriage, discovering a cheating spouse, or hearing back about a failed job interview can produce feelings of grief for the cherished vision we once held. While it’s crucial to take the necessary steps in mourning our losses, finding a new way to achieve our goal will ensure that not all hope is lost. Although some failed dreams or attempts should rightfully be abandoned and put to rest, others can be salvaged with a little creativity and a fresh perspective.
For instance, if our perceived “dream job” doesn’t pan out, maybe it’s time to consider entrepreneurship or freelancing. A more in-depth examination of our motivations can help identify how to experience the same satisfaction through different means. Perhaps you were looking for a chance at leadership rather than a new title. Taking on a creative project or serving as a mentor in your field can still allow you to fulfill that need. Moving away from a one-track mentality presents us with more options and enables us to find success despite setbacks.
Building a Stronger Version of Ourselves
Grief enters our lives in various ways, and life comes with inevitable ups and downs. When we use the “down” moments to pause and prepare ourselves for higher heights in our eventual rebound, we can find a light at the end of the tunnel. While life may never be quite the same without that relationship, job, or aspiration we once had, we can become stronger as we rebuild ourselves with a deeper understanding of who we are and what we believe to be vital for a life well-lived. We cannot replace a loss, but we can heal to become stable and secure enough to support uncapped growth in the future.