It is frequently not expected, but not at all unusual, for mourners to feel rudderless, adrift, unsure of their own purpose when someone close to them dies. Who am I now that I am not a wife? Sibling? Husband? Child? When an important relationship is disrupted by loss, roles get lost. Now that I am not the best friend who am I?
Perhaps you and your spouse were in the habit of watching Jeopardy every evening. And then there you are, sitting alone at the appointed hour, television on… and suddenly you realize you don’t enjoy Jeopardy. Now what? Do I still eat fish on Friday because Mary said it was good for me? Do I still make meatloaf every Tuesday because it was John’s favorite and his mother always made meatloaf on Tuesday? When someone you were in a close relationship with dies your world changes in hundreds of little ways. You feel lost, because you have lost. You have lost that person you loved who reflected you back to you. It’s like looking into the mirror and finding no image. Without the one you loved, who are you?
As with all of the feelings of grief there is no right or wrong. No should or should not. Feeling lost is what it is. It comes with the territory. It’s part of grief. It’s normal and you will be ok. How a person deals with this feeling is personal. Some will never make meatloaf again and certainly not on Tuesday. Others will derive great comfort from continuing the traditions that were a part of life with the one they loved. Just do what appeals to you. Embrace the opportunity to do something new or feel the warm hug of continuing the familiar.
If you are playing a supporting role to someone who is mourning, hold their hand and walk with them as they navigate their grief journey. Don’t judge. Remember, it’s their journey and their approach may be very different from what you think you would do or what you have done. Join them for the meatloaf and a talk about John and how he loved it or accompany your friend as he or she creates a new normal.
If you are mourning and are feeling stuck and lost, ask for help. Sometimes people who are struggling feel they must “give it some time,” try on their own. Think about that. Does it really make sense to go it alone? If you were stuck in the bottom of a well and a passerby offered help, would you say, “No thanks I really need to try to get out of this deep well on my own at least for a while”? Of course, you would not. Why not get help? What is the benefit? A grief counselor is a like a coach. They can’t do it for you, but they can help you find your way. Don’t be afraid to get a coach. Reach out to a professional grief counselor or perhaps your pastor. Find someone who knows grief and who can help you find your way.