ASK A GRIEF COACH
Question: How Can I Process Loss When the Others are Already Moving Forward?
Answer: Forging our own path often means ignoring the path of others.
Ask a Grief Coach is an online column to address commonly received questions in private work with my clients. All names are kept anonymous, and the questions are shared with permission. As you read, keep the context of your own story in mind. No answers found here will apply directly to your circumstance because your grief is unique to you. However, the hope is that you will find tools and tips of support, whether you are the griever or the supporter.
This feels like a complicated question, but I’m going to try anyway. Last year, one of my oldest friends passed away. She had just given birth to a beautiful child and only recently became married. Both her widow and her child are precious to me — like family — and our relationship is solid.
But I just found out that he has started dating again. In fact, he has a girlfriend. I’m shocked, overwhelmed, and have no idea how to understand that he’s ready to move forward while I’m still reeling.
I’m not trying to say that he should be grieving like I am. But I am confused about how I am feeling so much intense pain and loss at the thought of my friend, and how he could possibly feel ready to date again so quickly.
How do I navigate this?
The Broken Friend
You’re right; this is a complicated question. It sounds like you already understand that the two of you will grieve differently, despite losing the same person. While your person died, she was someone different to each of you. That alone changes how you’ll grieve.
But the idea that he is ready to start dating again when you couldn’t fathom that for yourself is important. The context of his story, life, and grief are likely unknown to you. Even with a close relationship, he is going to be driving the grief process inside the framework and belief system that served him prior to the loss as well. It will inform the way he understands the loss and how he moves through it. There is a lot of context in their life together, too, that will influence what he thinks is meaningful, timely, or appropriate that simply may not make sense to you.
While time and pacing may be a part of your process, perhaps that’s not meaningful for him. I suspect you may feel protective of your friend’s memory, wondering if there’s another motive or dismissal of her that he is hiding from you or others.
But I would encourage you not to play the guessing game with his grief. If you have access to him, and want to ask questions for your own process, be sure you are clear that anything you say or ask is not about trying to influence how he grieves. Unless you’ve been invited into that space, stay out of it.
But if you are simply feeling a double dose of loss by seeing him actively in relationship with someone new, then this is an opportunity for you to create a boundary for self-care. You can’t control how he will grieve, nor what he will do in the grieving process. You can control how much you bear witness to, and whether or not you are a participant in every part of the story you’re invited to join.
Your loss is just as valid. You are likely familiar with behaviors in your own story of loss that could potentially cause dismay or concern to your loved ones, as well. So as you consider how you’ll move forward, it is important to focus your energy and time on the integration of your grief into your story. Keeping your eyes on the path before YOU means you’re not busy making sure he’s on some approved path, too.
May you carry the courage to stay on your own path,
Do you have questions about grief? Send Mandy your questions via Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. All submissions are anonymous, with details occasionally changed to protected against identification.
Mandy Capehart is an author, small business owner, editor, certified grief and life coach, and creator of The Restorative Grief Project. The Restorative Grief Project is an online community focusing on one another’s stories and new methodologies for grief, creating a safe environment for our souls to heal and our spirits to be revived. To learn more, visit MandyCapehart.com or follow her on Twitter. She thinks she is pretty funny. The jury is out.