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Re-Organizing After A Life Changing Event

by Judy Brown

As much as we all hope for a carefree life there are going to be events that change your life forever. Nothing stays the same, change is inevitable; but sometimes the change is unexpected and unpleasant. These are changes that require you to re-organize your whole way of life. It might be just a move to another town or country, it might be a divorce, or death of a spouse or child. How can we cope with this type of change and try to organize a whole new way of life?

The first thing to remember is that everything doesn't have to be done in one day. Right now you may be overwhelmed by grief, anger, confusion or fear, and getting through the day is as much as you can do. This doesn't mean these feelings will last forever, sometimes you need to let yourself wallow in them and take time out to rest, re-evaluate and re-group.

Sometimes a domino effect occurs and you have a combination of things happen. You may have to deal with death or divorce, moving, job-hunting and children all at once. Each family member is also coming to terms with her own loss and problems of restructuring life. Tempers and emotions are running high.

Before you do anything else, deal with the emotions. Whatever your situation, call a formal meeting with your immediate family members (the ones that are in this just like you are,) and acknowledge the feelings each one has. Find out what the biggest fears are and see if you can all talk about them and when each person has had a turn talking and all the fears have been listed, brainstorm together to come up with a list for an action plan for each person.

What will make the fear about each item go away? How can you help each other to make things better? Each person (even the smallest child) should have a to-do list of chores and tasks to be accomplished each day.

Often what is a big fear for a child is something that you can reassure them about right away. With death of a spouse or divorce, children are worried that something might happen to the remaining parent. You can assure them that you are taking good care of yourself and hope to be around for a long time.

This is not the time to talk in detail about the fact that no one knows when it is their time to go; but you should start thinking about things like insurance and wills for yourself. This is a big topic, but if you have been left on your own, this is something that needs to be addressed when you are feeling more in control of things.

The main thing is to project a postive attitude. What is done is done, it can't be changed, but you can all learn to adapt, millions of others have and it isn't always fun; but it is not going to be like this forever.

Tips for the meantime

Start a personal journal, write down all your feelings, questions and observations on what is happening to you, to your children and do this in a free flowing way. Set aside some time each day to write for about half an hour and let it all hang out on the page. If you do this every day and review it once a week you may see themes emerging and those themes are the things that need to be worked on first.

Encourage each child or family member to keep their own journal and provide a notebook for each one. Sometimes they don't think they want to do this, but assure them that whatever they write will be for their eyes only and no one else will read it. Whatever you do, don't intrude on their privacy, let them write and get it all down on paper. They may want you to read it and that is great, but if they don't, respect their right to keep their journal private and encourage the rest of the family to do the same.

Schedule a little family meeting each day where you all touch base and record your to-do's and plans for the day. Some days you won't feel like doing this, but try to do it every day. It puts some structure into a life that is out of control and allows everyone to feel like they are getting somewhere and moving ahead. Encourage them to cross off their tasks, no matter how small, as they are accomplished. And don't overdo this, keep the lists reasonable and doable, it is better to have three things to do all day than have a long list that is just going to overwhelm you.

Sometimes you need more help than your personal resources allow, don't be afraid to seek professional help if you feel you need it. Talk with the counsellors at your child's school, your family doctor, minister or a very close friend. Sometimes all it takes is talking it out with someone who is not inside of your problem, others will see things from a different perspective and may be able to help you organize your thinking on many aspects of your situtation.

Now is not the time to worry too much about the household chores although keeping things as normal as possible will help somewhat. Make sure everyone is pitching in to help.

Most of all remember, good or bad - nothing lasts forever and you can reinvent your life as many others have. Planning a new life, while overwhelming, can be exciting if you take it a step at a time and don't try to do it all alone. And remember you don't have to do everything in one day.

Copyright © 2003-2004 Judy Brown