Disappointment and Grief, finding a new normal by Annie Highwater

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Annie returns with an article published in Allies in recovery found at http://alliesinrecovery.net
        “Disappointment and Grief, finding a new normal”
In this week’s Allies in Recovery conversation we concentrated on disappointment and grief. Which for me, are interwoven.  Grief involves loss, which means hope deflates into disappointment as plans and visions are redirected, if not completely cut down.

I’m very familiar with the shock of upheaval and change, along with the processes of struggle and resistance that soon follow.  Many times I have had to make my way through dark times to reach a place of acceptance and peace, where I could find hope again.

In my own life, I have personally experienced three significant seasons of loss, grief and disappointment.    As a result of those times, I’ve grieved the loss of people, homes, pets and plans.

As described in my book “Unhooked”, the first experience was during the death of my Father which mercilessly occurred during my divorce.    The second was after my son experienced an injury in football and a dependency upon pain medication followed, tearing through our lives like an out of control freight train.

The third was when my son moved out of state, just before the sudden death of our beloved family dog, as a handful of other unexpected things happened that turned my life upside down.  I quickly and without warning found myself almost overnight becoming an Empty Nester, having several unexpected job, home and life changes occur in a short span of time.  I was soon deeply mourning the life I thought I would have.  It was a lot to process.

Loss. Shock. Change. Upheaval.

I don’t know about you, but for me – when it rains it pours.

In these times I tend to become wide awake and acutely aware of my life, my pulse and my surroundings, with all senses heightened. Seeming to emotionally and even physically lose my balance, unable to regain stable footing, with every frame of reference familiar to me altered.  On my worst days I found it hard to breathe in public.

(Please note – if you’re close to someone going through a loved one’s struggle with SUD, or other types of loss, shock, change or upheaval, it’s a powerful thing to come alongside with comfort and presence.  Gestures of kindness and compassion are extremely potent boosts of encouragement and hope for anyone enduring dark, painful days.)


Finding a new normal

 “Every disappointment, every failure and every heartache carries with it the Seed of an equivalent or a greater Benefit” ~Napolean Hill

Finding hope again takes time, it’s a process and we may experience at least a few of the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance; grief.com) before reconciling ourselves to how different life is actually panning out from what we’d envisioned.

After loss, change and disappointment, things will never be the same, but that doesn’t mean life can’t become good again.

Sometimes things fall apart and are rebuilt stronger.  There are times when a massive life change is actually an awakening to the value of life.

I recently had a conversation with a man named Brad regarding his obvious energy and enthusiasm every time I see him.  He began telling how he went through a heartbreaking divorce that he didn’t want or expect.  He was beyond devastated and quite naturally, unsure how to start life over.  Brad described for me how it seemed as though one day he was grilling dinner in his backyard, mowing the lawn, driving a sedan and planning to spend the rest of his days doing so…to the next, sitting alone in a one room apartment in the city, isolated and bewildered.  His life had become unrecognizable. I believe many of us who have suffered loss and upheaval can relate.

The defeat and loss he felt were overwhelming, lasting months and months.  One day, a compassionate friend stopped by to see Brad.  The friend scheduled a fishing trip for the two of them to Miami where for the next few days he intentionally spoke hope and possibility back into the grieving man’s soul.   Stepping outside of his routine of loss and hopelessness woke Brad up to the idea of a new lease on life.

When Brad returned from the trip he thought long and hard about his new set of circumstances, he decided to take the reins of his life without focusing on unfairness or blame (and not connecting his energy with anyone who does) and he began truly living.

Brad told me he intentionally wakes up every morning with the motto “What great moments can I experience today?”  He gets up early five days a week to work out and meditate, spending time on his physical, spiritual and mental health before heading to his business.   Some days he does something extraordinarily thoughtful and special for someone close to him.  Weekly he signs up for a workout class he would have never tried before, just as often he will stop into a new coffee shop or boutique to try something he’d never heard of and leave a large, unexpected tip…and so on.  He keeps life flowing this way, free from becoming stale, idle or stagnant.

On a daily basis, Brad runs his life with this enthusiastic pace.  Once he got into the habit, it became his lifestyle, he’s lived this way for more than two decades.  Listening, I couldn’t help but catch his enthusiasm!

This once distraught man who thought life was over, is now in his 70’s and has not missed out on a single day.  He’s more active and alive than many who are a third his age!  Brad opened my eyes to the possibility of living a life fully awake to the value of time.

What seemed at first like a ruined life ended up being a change of direction toward a life he may have missed out on had he not experienced loss and disappointment.

Not that he would have wished for divorce, but sometimes you just have to play the hell out of the hand you’re dealt.

Brad’s attitude is truly an example of someone who took adversity and turned it into his motivation for making the most of all of his days.

It takes time, healing, support and mindfulness – but life can become whole again after loss, shock, change and upheaval.  It’s often after great darkness that we become most aware of the value of light.

The broken will always be able to love harder than most.  Once you’ve been in the dark you learn to appreciate everything that shines.”  ~The Positive Diaries

Wishing you peace, hope and effervescent life,



End note:

“The funny thing about suffering life-changing tragedy…you are afterwards, afraid of nothing. When you’ve faced the worst sorrow and fear life could possibly bombard you with, what worse can you go through? What can a mere person do to hurt you after that? You become permanently unafraid and void of the petty concerns that tragedy-free people lose their cool over. And in some small way, that’s a comfort. This is a truth I’ve paid dearly to claim – I don’t scare as easily as I used to.” – Barbara Johnson*

*I wrote this statement down at a conference where Barbara Johnson was a speaking as she was saying it.  She has many published books on finding your way through the deep, horrendous waters of grief.  While I personally cannot speak as someone who knows the agony of losing a child, Barbara writes with full knowledge; having lost two sons.  Her books are on finding hope and even joy again.  I cannot recommend them enough for anyone struggling through the grief of unimaginable loss.

Some losses will always be with us, the loss of a child, partner, or any close, precious and much loved person changes the dynamics of who were are and how we live. It becomes a matter of managing life while carrying their absence within us.  But in their honor and with the best of memories, we must continue to live and find our way forward until we meet them again.


Unhooked book link:


For information, support and comfort:

http://tapunited.org   and    http://alliesinrecovery.net

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