Finding your way through the grief
Dear Carolyn • The love of my life was killed last weekend in a car accident. I am lost. What do I even begin to do? Everyone's asking me what I need and I don't even know. My head is full of questions. What am I going to do now that the future I planned is gone? Where do I even sit at the funeral? His parents are beyond kind, but there is no official role for the girlfriend. And I'm afraid to think about him or my future. I'm afraid that if I let go I'll fall into a deep, dark well that I may never come out of. I am meeting with a grief counselor today. Any thoughts on books, or things that have worked for people? I don't know what else to do.
Dear Bereft • Oh, I am so sorry. The only answer to "What do I do?" is this: Get by. You don't need to accomplish anything, answer anything, figure out anything right now. You just don't. Right now is for raw grief; anything else can wait until you feel ready for it. When your friends ask what you need, don't be afraid to say, "I have no idea." When you get to the funeral, you will sit where someone steers you to sit, and if no one steers you, just choose a seat with people you love. As for your future, your future is this evening, and this evening, your future will be tomorrow morning, and so on. Enlisting the help of a grief counselor says you are indeed functioning, and that's something you can count on as you get through these days.
Re: Grief • I am so sorry. Think of yourself as a tree whose best branch was cut off. Eventually the wound grows over and you get other branches, but that branch never comes back. You have a future, just nothing like what it was. You might want to try support groups, so you can talk with others who understand an unbelievable, unbearable loss. It actually helps.
Dear Anonymous • It seems peevish to tweak your tree image but I'll risk it: No one knows whether it will turn out to have been the "best branch." A beautiful branch, yes but I don't think it's productive to assign value to any one branch of our love.
Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.