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How can your "future you" help you now?
5 Resources & One Next Step for creating a new you after loss
Readers and clients have asked what resources I turn to for living with loss AND with joy, so periodically I’ll be sharing suggestions and inviting you to share what’s helping you.
When I was writing my book (Grieving Us: A Field Guide for Living With Loss Without Losing Yourself) during the dark, shut-down times of the pandemic, I wanted to respond to a question I kept hearing:
How do I live with loss without losing myself?
The reality is that you do lose yourself to some degree. Who you are, your sense of identity, is always tied to those who are a significant part of your life, especially those you deeply love . . . both human and animal.
What emerges out of the death of a loved one and the grief that follows is an altered “myself.”
Here’s the thing, though, you’re always changing. It doesn’t take loss to make that change happen. Just be alive.
It’s easy to see the evolution of you if you pull out a picture from 10 or 20 years ago. What you can’t do is pull out a snapshot of your future you.
Grief tends to draw our attention into the past, how it was and how we want it all back. Have you found that to be true for you?
Harder to imagine is your future you and what may be possible after death has visited your life. Often you think you can’t change, can’t ever be happy again, or become a new someone without your beloved other.
But you are never done. You are an ongoing work in progress.
As a sole-caregiver for the last several years, with deep losses in my past as well as inevitable in my future, I’ve come to realize you can be intentional in creating your future you. If you’ve been a client, a reader, or part of one of my small-group workshops, you no doubt heard me talk about setting a Feeling Intention and crafting a Becoming Promise.
Creating an intention, then acting on that intention, is how you get un-lost after loss. Below are 5 resources to support and inspire you in that process.
Big read: Be Your Future Self Now: The Science of Intentional Transformation, by Benjamin Hardy. While at times you might feel it’s for someone early in life wondering about their future, this book is for anyone feeling a bit lost and trying to find their way forward. Benjamin makes a compelling case, useful when we’re grieving, that “humans are not driven by the past but rather pulled forward by a future we’re committed to.” He shares how and why to be your future self now.
Little read: Becoming the Person You Were Meant to Be, By Anne Lamott. I adore Anne’s writing, and after reading nearly all her nonfiction and one of her novels, I feel like I know her. I met her at a writer’s conference when she was just becoming well-known. I was so young, and all I remember was the way her tiny curls (before the dreadlocks she wears now) bounced as she talked. I stumbled upon this piece online recently. Enjoy.
Listen: Bittersweet: The Hidden Riches in Sorrow and Longing, a conversation with author Susan Cain and podcast host Tami Simons, on the November 1, 2022, episode of Insights from the Edge. Listen as Susan and Tami talk about the value of sorrow, moving forward vs. moving on, and how getting curious about what you long for can open your life to new possibilities.
Watch: Ted Talk: The Psychology of Your Future Self with Daniel Gilbert. At just 6 minutes an 49 seconds, this is a quick video offering tremendous potential. When dealing with loss and trauma, more than at any other time, we can fall into what Dan calls “the end of history illusion.”
A Poem for the Path Forward: I’ve loved this poem for literally decades, and each time I sit with it, something new opens within me. He reminds us that the only one you have your whole life is you. Derek is among the first Caribbean poets to reach an international audience, and was awarded the 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread, Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
One next step:
Take a few slow breaths, close your eyes (if that’s comfortable for you), and project yourself into the future 6 months or a year from now.
Imagine a you that’s in a better place in their life, living with greater well-being than you are right now. Yes, it’s hard, just imagine what you’d like the future-you to feel and be like. Please don’t limit yourself or let your belief about whether or not it will actually happen color the vision of what’s possible for you.
Now, from the perspective of your future self, write a brief letter telling your current self what it’s like to be future-you, and what one thing you did between now and then that helped you get there.
Put it away somewhere safe but easily findable later. Then make a note on your calendar, or set a reminder on your smart phone, or whatever will work for you, to take that letter out, read it on the 6-month or one-year date. How far will you have come? What surprises will emerge?
One request: I’d love to know what resources are helping you now. Please share in a comment using the button below, or if you’re reading this in your email and wish to be more private, simple hit reply and share with me directly.
Let’s expand the range of resources for transcending grief and reimagining life after loss.