Setting New Goals After A Loved One Has Died

Harriet Hodgson

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Two family members - my daughter and my father-in-law - died on the same weekend. My father-in-law was 98 1/2 years old and his death was expected. But my daughter's untimely death at age 45 knocked me to my knees. Never in my life have I cried so hard and so long.

I know things will never be the same, yet I have to live my life. The question is, how do I go about it? Pesach Krauss and Morrie Goldfisher write about getting on with life in their book, “Why Me? Coping With Grief, Loss and change. " After the death of a loved one Krauss and Goldfisher think we need to shift our focus from a direct relationship with the deceased to identifying with his or her values.

"In that way, we free ourselves form the cold grip of the past to embrace warm and tender memories and action for the present, " they say.

I am blessed to have many warm and tender memories of my father-in-law and daughter. The family values of hard work, honesty, education, and giving have been passed from one generation to the next - another blessing. But I am so overwhelmed by grief I fear I will get stuck in the past. I did not want this to happen and started thinking about new goals.

Daniel Goleman, author of “Emotional Intelligence, " thinks people who pursue their goals have less anxiety and distress. Though the last few weeks have been filled with distress I thought I was capable of identifying new goals. One goal was already clear. The instant our daughter died my husband and I dedicated ourselves to protecting and caring for our twin grandchildren. “There must be other goals, " I said to myself.

And so, while I was making the bed, doing dishes, and folding laundry I let my mind wander. This went on for several weeks. Suddenly, the fog lifted from my mind and I saw my new goals clearly. I think they are good ones.

Goal 1: I will be a role model for my grandchildren.

Goal 2: I will tell them, in concise words, how I will help them.

Goal 3: I will keep my promises.

Goal 4: I will continue to write.

Goal 5: I will share my grief experiences.

Goal 6: I will learn and grow from grief.

Goal 7: I will laugh whenever I can.

Goal 8: I will care for myself so I can care for others.

Goal 9: I will cherish each day.

Goal 10. I will celebrate life with my husband and family.

Identifying new goals has given new meaning to my life. While I still have bouts of crying (sometimes in my sleep) I awaken with a sense of purpose. I have this day and will make the most of it.

Copyright 2007 by Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelance nonfiction writer for 28 years. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief, " written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from A five-star review of the book is posted on Amazon. Other reviews are posted on the American Hospice Foundation Web site (under the “School Corner" heading) and the Health Ministries Association Web site.


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