Rebuilding Your Life One Piece at a Time

Death, especially unexpected death, changes one’s life in ways that cannot be anticipated. With the death of someone close, one’s world is forever changed.

One analogy I have found myself using with clients is the following:  If you were to imagine the day before your loved one died, there was an intact picture of your life. The picture may not have been perfect, but it was there and it made sense. There was a beginning, a middle and an expected end. With death comes the destruction of that picture. It is as if the picture is taken out of your hands, smashed to the ground in a thousand pieces and then some of the most treasured pieces are forever taken away.

The challenge with grief is to then take all of those pieces which are left and attempt to make a new picture. The picture of the life you once had is impossible to recreate, as much as one may try, it cannot be recreated with pieces missing. A new picture must be assembled with the pieces that are left and with new pieces that are picked up along the way.

The process of putting the pieces back together is one that often feels chaotic and confusing. It may sometimes be surprising to find out how much thinking is involved in the grief process. thoughts bounce around trying to connect what was with what is and struggle to make sense out of what seems to be incomprehensible.

With each piece, the bereaved, through trial and error, find where each piece belongs or even if it belongs at all. This process is different for every person and does not adhere to any kind of timeline. This (what feels like endless) thinking is the work that grief demands; it is the creation of a new picture of your life created one piece at a time.

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Comments (18)

  • I lost my daughter 6 years ago and still feel the pain. Today I found a note she had written and it shattered me

  • This makes a lot of sense – thank you for the article
    Kathleen Grapski
    Lauryn’s Proud Mom

  • What comforting and beautiful thoughts and words. This is such an understandable project that will take me from where I have been to where I need to be . I never would have come to this idea on my own. It is so descriptive but doesn’t stop at the loss. It paints the picture of the hope for a good future and gives the step by step process that will inspire us to go on. Thank you very much.

  • This exactly what process I went through and am still going through 16 years later. Thank you for putting it so eloquently!

  • This is an excellent analogy. I’ve seen and heard a lot of descriptions but, this truly is one of the best. Thank you for sharing with us.

  • Yesterday was my Son Eric’s 40th birthday. He left 16 years ago…. I’m having a celebration of life with all of his old friends and family tonight.
    A sunset toast at the cemetery followed by a cook out. 16 years and everyday I pick up pieces. My life will never be whole without him……

  • spot on. I’m 5 years into this journey, and this really resonates with me. much love to you all who walk this same road <3

  • 6 1/2 years ago my world crash with the death of my 34 yr old daughter, Genevieve. No grandchildren to look at & see her beautiful face in. I always think I have things put back together but then realize I am still missing her piece. This was a wonderful analogy. Thank you

  • These words really home with me. We lost our 26 year old daughter two years ago and it seems all I do is think and try to understand what my life is now without her. A major part of my identity left with her and I suppose that’s a normal way for a mother to feel. I will never have those unique mother-daughter moments again, she will never marry or become a mother 🙁 When you lose a child you loose a part of the future you thought you’d have. You are instantly and unbelievably changed in a way you NEVER saw coming and right now… I am just not fully here, I’m
    praying someday I can be whole again ( but different ) and I can feel peace in my heart

  • This is so hard to do. My son passed 7 years ago and I can’t find any peace. I feel trapped in a tunnel. I wish I could try to put this simple process into place.

  • I have lost three children now to cancer…my youngest daughter Bec 15 years ago… son July 2020 and my eldest daughter Leanne three months ago. 🧚🏽‍♀️🧚🏽‍♀️🧚🏽‍♀️
    I keep trying to pick up the pieces each time it gets harder…but your words are comforting, I have 2 children left that treasure and try to wrap in Cotton wool but know I can’t 🦋

    • Glenys, my sincere condolences go out to you. I know your losses must be so painful. There are no words that I can say to ease that grief. My heart aches for you. I truly hope that you will find peace.

    • So very sorry for your losses.You will be in my prayers and I hope your family will be blessed.

  • My son was stillborn at almost 27w with Bilateral Renal Agenesis in January 2000. The gap in our family line up is evident, especially as my living children are now grown. I’ve learned to live life with a piece of my family jigsaw puzzle missing. An imperfect picture, only made perfect by the unending love I still have for my son.

  • I read this somewhere and put it where I can see it.. Grief I’ve learned is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All the unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.
    My son Garrett died this past April. After reading this about putting your picture back together is fitting. My thoughts and hope is that we as mothers can go forward. I’m struggling with the awful pain I feel. There is nowhere to run from this terrible feeling.

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