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Starting Over - Part of Starting Over is Saying Goodbye

Letting Go of the Past and Grieving Loss is an Essential Step in Starting Over

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While social scientists like Elizabeth Kübler-Ross (On Death and Dying, 1969) have studied grieving as it relates to death, I believe the same principles apply whenever we have to say goodbye to anything that was once meaningful in our lives. And we can’t actually start over until we let the go of the past. Kübler-Ross’ research showed that grief has stages through which most people pass, although not in any given order or over any specific time frame. She identified denial, anger, bargaining and depression as normal reactions before acceptance can occur. Why, even a new exercise routine can stir up these feelings!

When I worked as an organizational change consultant, I taught many business teams these principles after layoffs, reorganizations and personal defeats. I’ve referred to it when undergoing my own life changes, and when helping friends through theirs. Sometimes it helps just knowing that what we’re thinking and feeling is normal.

Talk It Out

When I wrote my book Finding Frances, I was able to create characters embodying the different emotions associated with grief. In doing so, I worked through some of my own issues. When people read the story, they say they are better able to articulate their own experience of loss. It’s enormously satisfying to be part of that process. Similarly, you can help yourself and others do this. Most people find it helpful to be able to talk with a friend, support group, or even to themselves in a journal as they leave people, habits and a way of life behind and find the strength to start anew. Talking seems to relieve the mind of its burden.

Practice Self Care

If you’re undergoing a transition after a major change don’t forget to care for your physical body by eating right, exercising regularly, and sleeping well. Allow yourself to develop healing rituals that comfort, whether those rituals involve a warm bath, a religious gathering, or whatever feels right. Learn to say “no” when you can’t give any more.

Prune and Renew

Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” So many of us have heard these words, but to make them tangible, think about the way we prune plants, just the right amount, to renew their life force. When we repot a plant, we break the pot-bound roots a bit and spread them in fresh soil. Some of the roots have been severed – but they are now more ready than ever for sun, nutrients and rain. All of the elements that will help new leaves and flowers flourish.

How many times have you started over? Beginnings can be life-affirming. With every transition, we have the opportunity to grow. We become more of who we are, and more fully experience the full range of emotions that come with being alive.

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