Make no mistake the road toward recovery following loss is a very bumpy one. Just when you think you are making progress you are reminded you still have a long way to go. But trust me, eventually you will look back and realize there are more good days than bad and that you are indeed healing. Depending on your loss the future may look different to how you imagined it to be but from my experience this doesn’t have to necessarily be as awful as it may at first seem, just different. Life can still be meaningful and fulfilling following your recovery.

 

One of the things I learnt in treatment was how to recognize a blip, setback and relapse. The reason it is so important to know the difference between these phenomena is because, once we are beginning to let go and move on, so often we confuse a blip or setback from a complete relapse, thinking we are back at step one unnecessarily and causing us to lose the strength to keep going.

 

Blips

 

These are bad days, perhaps even a bad week. When we have these days, the pain and sorrow from our loss is magnified and worse than we have grown accustomed to.

 

These days are awful but only last up to a week in length maximum, after which we feel as we did before the blip took place. When we experience these days we tend to think they will last longer than they do.

 

Setbacks

 

These are usually between two to three weeks in duration. We again feel all the pain and sorrow from our loss as if it were yesterday and we had not begun on the road to recovery at all.

 

We might begin to think we are back at square one with our ability to cope with our loss and we could be at high risk of thinking we are relapsing into despair, with no hope of recovery in future.

 

You have however made progress even though it doesn’t seem like it during a setback. Use this time to lean on friends and family to feel understood and supported.

 

Once your pain has subsided to a more manageable level (and only then) and you feel almost as you did before the setback, continue to do the positive steps of avoiding behaviors that are contributing to your pain, socializing and engaging with hobbies, even if only for a couple of hours over the weekend.

 

Relapses

 

This typically lasts for one month or more and can be due to triggers such as birthdays or anniversaries or even special occasions or times of year like Christmas.

 

A word of warning though, it sometimes be due to trying to let go and move on before you have properly mourned.

 

This is when you need to question whether you tried to let go and move on before having fully mourned. If you think this is a possibility, seek comfort in close friends and family until your pain is more manageable. Even if you are having a relapse you can and will go on to lead a meaningful and fulfilling life in future, just trust in the recovery process and be patient with yourself.

 

When you feel you have mourned, gently and at your own pace, begin to follow the steps as outlined in this month’s Monday series posts. You will get to a better place however it will take time and you need to be as self-compassionate and patient with the process as you can possibly be.

 

Even though this is one of the most difficult things you can do, hang in there. It will be worth it, I promise.

 

Have you ever made the distinction between blips, setbacks and relapses? Can you share your own wisdom on how to deal with them when they occur? How did you handle setbacks in the past? Please share your thoughts in the comments below to gain encouragement, insight and support from our community, we’d love to hear from you.