There are so many layers to the loneliness of grief. When you lose a loved one, you’re not just losing a partner, friend, etc., you are losing the many roles they played in your life. A husband may also be a tennis partner and a date to the symphony. A brother may be a fishing buddy and a chili cook-off teammate.
No person can ever replace the lost loved one. We can, though, find people who can step into some of the roles the deceased can no longer fill.
The path toward accepting your new reality after loss is often paved by making necessary adjustments to function in a world without your loved one. This means you will take on a part of the responsibilities of the person who has passed. You will delegate the other part to other people.
It is unlikely that the different roles will all go to one person. The different roles will go into different cups. In grief counseling, I refer to this process as “cups and roles.”
Cups and Roles: The Process
Step 1: Ask Yourself:
- What are the different roles that the deceased used to play in my life?
- Who are the people who belong in my support circle? What role(s) do they play in my life?
- How can I put the roles that my loved one used to play while they were still alive in different cups with each cup representing a person in my current support circle?
Step 2: Ask others:
- Would you like to (go fishing, go to the symphony, etc.) with me like I used to do with (my husband, my brother, etc.)?
From my experience, most people respond positively and actually feel honored to be considered to take on one of the roles.
Cups and Roles: An Example
Jen lost her best friend Julia.
The two of them used to go on weekly walks together. They’d occasionally stop for lunch at a different local restaurant along the way to try something new on the menu. Julia and Jen would get their kids together for playdates every Friday after school. Once a month they would go to the movie theater to watch the newest chick flick or comedy that just came out. Once a season they would go on a girls’ trip together to a nearby city or town, depending on where there was a good band playing or a concert scheduled.
Jen now goes through the three questions in the “ask yourself” list and asks herself what the different missing roles are that Julia left behind with her passing, and which one of Jen’s friends or family members could also be a:
- Workout buddy
- Foodie willing to try out new restaurants
- Fun parent with kids of similar ages she can meet with
- Movie buff who likes chick flicks or comedies
- Travel companion
- Friend with similar taste in music who also likes live bands or concerts
Jen contacts them (six different people or less, since one person may be able to fulfill more than one of Julia’s roles). She asks if she can “put the missing role in their cup.”
Like Jen, you will not be replacing your loved one, nor will you be getting rid of all the loneliness in grief. But you will be acknowledging that your life is still going on and very much worth living while also honoring an activity the two of you shared.
- Book Recommendation: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
- Mantra: I AM RELEASE // repeat with diaphragmatic breathing
- Yin Yoga Asana: Squat Pose
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