It's usually elusive and sometimes comes at you all at once.
As we live life, we gather up ideas that feel important to us.
As young adults, we try on different lifestyles, friends, hobbies, and professions.
Some stick and some don't.
All of these together create a lens you see life through. Your subjective perspective. And on you go.
If you were brought up in a way that was magically trauma-free and smooth sailing, the first time you experienced a big perspective shift was when someone you knew died.
Death has a way of blasting us open and scouring out all of our preconceived notions and usual assumptions.
It takes us out of our routine and into a place we don't spend much time- the all-encompassing, untethered, free-floating awareness of the transient nature of living life. Ouch.
It's not the most pleasant place, especially the first time you get there. It is so very vast and unstable.
Logically, we get it- lifeforms are born and die. But the emotional, attached, creature of habit in us is yowling. Where is that other soft body I love? Their sounds, their smells, their way of being with me? How is it that the sun is still rising when they are not here?
We feel lost without them.
And then begins the life reassessment. Was their being alive what made my life worth living? Can I go on without them? How will I? I am so lonely. Is what I am doing with my life really right for me? Do I want to live here? Am I doing the right job? Am I good at it? Am I good?
It is easy to leap off into a spiral of doubt and regret. Thinking about what you wish you had done or not, said or not, chosen or not. Should I have gone to live in a foreign country? Should I go now?
Rehashing past decisions that have already played out is not a path to mental ease. Believe me, I know.
All of this uncertainty is part of grieving. Losing people (and other animals) that are important to you does change you. At first, it's not clear who the new you is, or what their needs are. It may be that all of this confusion is just a side trip and you will end up back where you began, content. Or not. Maybe it is time to move to Spain or study painting.
That is why most professionals (financial advisors and psychologists in this case) recommend that you wait a minimum of six months before making any major life changes.
Remember, you chose to be where you are at some point, and hopefully for good reasons based on truth and love. Can you revisit that? Do those choices still ring true and feel valid? if it's not, sure, look again. change direction. start anew. But maybe not right away and everything all at once unless absolutely necessary (I did that once and it's really scary and exhausting).
This is what the grief process is about- soothing the pain of loss, reassessing what is the right next thing for you, and gently moving forward. Because it is so emotionally uncomfortable, we have an inclination to want to hurry or avoid it. And that's fine sometimes, as long as you also allow time for breathing through the uncertainty, fear of the unknown, and simply crying.
Taking comfort when it is offered helps. Letting the feelings come through when you can helps. Giving yourself days off from your normal routine helps. Talking to people about the loved ones you have lost helps. Time helps.
And most importantly, acknowledging to yourself and those nearest to you that you are going through this process and that it is changing you helps. Even if you stay in the same place and do the same work, you are different.
There is a gift of loss- an awareness of the depth and possibility of life. An opportunity to pay closer attention. To focus more on what you really love.
We could do that anyway, today. We don't have to wait for loss.