“I’m feeling so lost…”
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s how universal the experience of grief is. As unique a journey as each griever travels, there are still so many commonalities that connect the bereaved to one another, and nowhere is this more evident then right within the forums of www.griefincommon.com.
Occasionally it seems that a particular theme pops up (the blog “What to Do If You Don’t Know What To Do After Loss” was born from this) and the importance of this just can’t be ignored.
Recently I’ve noticed how often a griever has started their story with, “I’m feeling so lost”. I would guess just about every griever has said this at one point or another. But I couldn’t help but wonder, what does it really mean? And does it mean the same thing to each person?
Merriam-Webster lists 9 meanings for the word “lost” and all of them seem to apply, in one way or another, to the griever:
- not made use of, won or claimed, a lost opportunity: how often does the griever wish they could go back in time? To mend a relationship, to say the words they never got the chance (or never felt brave enough) to say, or just the chance to go back and stop and appreciate all they had? I think for a lot of grievers loss can shape life to feel like a lot of “lost opportunity”. For the things we never got to do, and the future that will be absent of the one we love.
- no longer known, a lost tunnel: a griever may feel like a stranger to those who know them, and they may feel even more like a stranger to themselves. While I’m not quite sure how you lose a tunnel (sorry Webster’s, but that’s an odd example), I do see how often a griever feels like they have lost a piece of themselves, their identity and their roles, with the death of someone they love.
- ruined or destroyed physically or morally, desperate, a lost soul: well, this one kind of speaks for itself, but the idea of being ruined or destroyed, there is such yearning and such hopelessness in it. One of the hardest things to acknowledge in grief is the idea that we can’t go back to the way things once were. While grievers may hope to just return to normal one day, they recognize through time that the “normal” is no longer there to claim. Still, I hope the idea of being destroyed by grief doesn’t stick with the griever for too long as they work to rebuild, even if it means starting anew.
- hardened, lost to shame: those who have had a loss may feel they have hardened to the life around them. The pain and the vulnerability that comes with grief is something that can be very difficult for grievers to cope with. To feel so open, so raw, to feel so little control and at the mercy of fate…sometimes it may seem the only solution is to harden ourselves, to prevent feeling so exposed and defenseless to future hurts and pain.
- lacking assurance or self-confidence, helpless, lost without his glasses: this is a big one, and it definitely falls under the category of the things people don’t expect after loss. Sure, we know we’ll be sad when someone we love is gone. But could we also predict how much it would impact our confidence? Loss has a way of turning everything upside down, of smashing familiarity and certainty. It shifts the ground beneath our feet and the things we thought we knew and understood no longer seem so secure. Throw into this the fact that a lot of grievers are left to take care of tasks they never had to before (household chores, the bills, cooking) and it’s easy to see how a griever can lose trust in themselves and the world around them.
- absorbed, lost in reverie: I like this one. Probably because it’s the type of “lost” most people don’t even realize, and yet so many grievers are lost in their heads. It’s what explains the lack of focus, the inability to concentrate, the difficulty in remembering things. How can anyone be expected to do all they did before when their mind is lost and absorbed and just filled to the brim with grieving?
- not appreciated or understood, wasted, their jokes were lost on me: Feeling misunderstood is such a common theme in the bereavement groups I facilitate, I think it’s what brings people to a group in the first place. It’s not because they don’t know anyone in their personal life or have anyone to talk to. But are they the right people? Unless someone has had a loss themselves, it can be very hard for others to know what to say, how to act, or how to just be. Yet it’s the griever who ends up feeling like the odd one out, and it makes returning to life after loss especially hard when we don’t know who we can count on to be on the journey with us.
- obscured or overlooked during a process or activity, lost in translation: so maybe I’m being too literal on this one but I often hear grievers talk about feeling left out. Socializing after loss is tricky and in the early days especially it’s not unusual to withdraw from friends and extended family. Trouble is, many grievers report seeing these friends and family go on with their lives in the months that follow, and often times the griever is left feeling overlooked or left behind.
- futile, a lost cause: I use the phrase “moving forward” a lot when talking about life after loss. It’s the direction that life is taking us whether we want to or not. But recently when I posted a blog that talked about moving forward a user responded, “moving forward to what?”. Because for her, while time itself may be moving ahead, she was feeling stuck and directionless. While none of us really ever know, in grief or otherwise, what lies ahead, I think for those who have had a loss there can be that feeling of being a lost cause, that any efforts we make to heal would be useless. And in a lot of ways, this type of “lost” may very well be the saddest and hardest to overcome.
But the good news is, I do believe there is hope. And hope can always be found, if you know where to look.
So think of a time in your life when you were lost. Not emotionally, but literally lost, in the car, driving in circles, taking a lot of wrong turns and not knowing where to go next or where you would end up.
Did you ever stop? Did you ever take the chance of pulling over, getting out of the car and asking someone for directions?
We can try to do this alone. We can keep driving endlessly until we run out of gas. Or we can stop and ask for help. And sometimes, we may just be amazed at the help we receive.
Because the person giving the directions has been down this same road. They know its twists and turns, and how unclear some of the signs can be. They understand what it means to feel alone and lost and the frustration you feel because they too struggled when they first tried to make it down that same road.
That’s what grief support looks like. You don’t have to be wandering aimlessly with no end in sight. Support from friends, family, community, your church, local hospital, or online forums can make a difference.
There is no part of loss that is a choice. There is also no amount of yearning, second-guessing or wishing that can change or alter the past. The only control left, the only thing that puts a griever back in the driver’s seat, is making a decision to find help when they need it, and to take a step toward the journey of what comes next.
Feeling lost in your grief? It only takes a quick visit to our community to see that you’re not alone. And it’s amazing the difference that validation can make.
Connecting with other grievers allows a chance to be heard, understood, found…
You can find us right here: www.griefincommon.com. We hope you’ll join us today.