What to Do when Life Falls Apart: The Essential 6-step Program


First of all, what constitutes life falling apart? The death of a beloved spouse or family member? A marriage or relationship that has withered away or perhaps ended abruptly? A job loss potentially leading to financial ruin (or so you might think right now)? For the more theatrical, the reason might be much less dramatic or life changing, although it may seem so to that person at the time. Whichever one is closest to your life, there are some steps that you must go through to come out the other side with your heart and new life intact.

The 6 steps are:

1. Wallow in it. This step is essential. Repeat everything you experienced and are still going through many times to anyone who will listen. Good friends and family will be very patient with this part of the process. If your big life change included a cheating husband, then self-righteous indignation is appropriate at this point. Part of this step includes getting out of bed and putting one step in front of the other. Remember, this step is temporary. For the more evolved, skip this step completely and go right to forgiveness and acceptance.

2. To eat or not to eat? Part of healing is taking care of yourself. Perhaps you are a stress eater, or equally dangerous, stress drinker, drinking alcohol to numb your frazzled nerves, often followed by high-caffeine drinks to rev you back up. If you are a stress eater, first you need to recognize the fact that you are opening the freezer door. If ice cream is your weakness, why not put a sign on the freezer saying, “Go for a walk instead.” Or have an apple with a little peanut butter on it. Basically, we’re talking about redirecting your focus to healthier choices that won’t make you feel guilty and hard on yourself afterwards, which, as we know, increases our stress.

Maybe you are a stress non-eater, equally dangerous. You can’t stomach the thought of food and simply stop eating, forcing your body to feed on itself, wasting your muscles and affecting your brain chemistry, adding to your already depressed state. If you are a stress non-eater, perhaps you need to place cards about the house saying, “Please feed me, I need fuel.” Again, making healthy choices begins with awareness.

3. Get help. Your friends and family need a break, but you still need someone to talk to, so make an appointment with a therapist. If finances are a problem, there are may be community agencies that can help with a referral for you. Your place of worship may offer you comfort. Therapeutic massage, acupuncture, meditation and yoga can help to calm your nerves. We cannot underestimate the healing power of nature. A walk in the woods, by the sea or even on a rooftop gazing at the sky can offer you tremendous healing energy.

4. Read every book you can find. There are many books that will say exactly what you want to hear and some that won’t. Eventually read all of them, especially anything inspirational to you. Some good choices are:

  • When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chödrön
  • Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me), by Carol Tavis and Elliot Aronson
  • Anything by Eckhart Tolle, Carline Myss and Deepak Chopra
  • Callings, by Gregg Levoy

5. Believe in yourself. Life begins anew. Choose to learn from experiences, choose to trust, choose to breathe deeply, pull yourself up by the bootstraps and move on. Dig deep and learn about the parts of yourself that you forgot were there. During times of self-reflection, many of us have reinforced what we already knew, and that is that family, friends and community are, basically, everything. Choose (it is a choice!) to move past fear and to believe in yourself. Do you believe in yourself? If you believe in yourself and your gifts — and we all have them — others will believe in you, too. Choose to be open-hearted. The best is yet to come. Believe it!

6. Pay it forward. If you have been through a life-changing event and know of someone who is going through one now, you can help as others helped you. Lend an ear, listen — really listen — and do what you can to help. Remember what helped you.

Know in your heart that most of the time there are lessons in the falling apart and such times offer a chance to learn and grow. Use your experiences to become a better version of yourself.

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