After a loss you are, of course, grieving the absence of your friend or family member but often you’ll find you also have to grieve for part of your identity that was defined by your relationship. If you identified as Sam’s mom and Sam is gone, then who are you now? If part of your identity is engrained in being Barbara’s husband and she’s passed away, how will you see yourself if she’s not here?
These are really challenging questions with answers that will likely take some time to discover. One thing you can do today is to take a quick look at where you’re at with a SWOT analysis. I know this sounds…a little cheesy…but stick with me. This is usually a practice applied to business, but sometimes a little rugged practicality can help bring clarity to complicated situations.
The basic idea of a SWOT analysis is to determine a project or organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats and list them out in four separate boxes. Instead of using this for a project though we’re applying it to your life after loss. The objective here is to get an idea of where you’re at, and if you’re up for it, where you want to go.
For the strengths box you might list answers to:
What am I good at? Why do people like me? What financial resources do I have? What tools or resources do I have at home? Do I have organization, club, or gym memberships? Who is in my support network? What is my physical state? How much time do I have available in my schedule? How have I achieved things in the past? Do I have goals?
For the weaknesses box you might ask yourself:
When do I find myself struggling? What keeps me from doing things I want to do? What parts of my life contribute to conflict? What financial challenges do I have? Do I have adequate and reliable food and housing? Have I finalized all the paperwork after my loss? Who in my life is more draining than supportive? What keeps me from achieving goals? Do I have goals?
For the opportunities box you might ask yourself:
Is there something I’ve always wanted to do? Are there job or volunteer opportunities in my community? Is there a possibility for financial growth? Are there support groups available to me? Could I learn a new skill? Is there a way I could create a lasting legacy for my loved-one? How can I create good from my loss? Are there people who could benefit from my experience? Are there ways I could live healthier?
For the threats box you might ask yourself:
Is there someone or something keeping me from what I want to do? Do I feel safe in my home and community? Do I have any financial uncertainty? Do I have any health concerns? Do I have any conflicts among my family and friends? Is my lifestyle supportive of good health? Am I complacent? Are there any unresolved issues that intensify my grief?
Just taking an inventory this way may be enough to give you some insight on where you are and maybe where you want to go. But if you want to address taking advantage of opportunities and keeping threats at bay, you can use the SWOT boxes to connect the dots and create an action plans which:
• Use your strengths to make the most of opportunities.
• Leverage strengths to reduce threats.
• Seek opportunities which compensate for or correct weaknesses.
• Eliminate weaknesses that feed threats.
Obviously this is not a cure-all or magic pill for grief, man do I wish that existed, but it does not. This is a tool that, if you’re a person that connects well to processes and systems, might help you parcel out where you’re at and where you’d like to be headed. It can also help if you’re someone who sometimes feels at the mercy of your emotions. Taking an analytical approach may help keep your thoughts and emotions focused. If nothing else, fill out the strengths list and remind yourself of all the good stuff you have to offer.