Adapted from a recent online discussion.
My elderly mom passed away last week after a sudden illness. My father and only sibling died years ago, so now I find myself unexpectedly feeling alone (I have other relatives, and a longtime boyfriend).
As it became apparent she wasn’t going to make it, I began getting strong urges to seriously alter my life — to move back to my home town, open a small business or maybe even go back to school. All of these things had been rumbling in my head before mom became sick, but now they’re almost overwhelming.
I’ve told myself I will make no sudden moves for at least a year, but honestly, I’m ready to walk out of my job and sell my house today. My boyfriend is somewhat concerned about what I might do. My concerns are that I will either do something big and really regret it, or that I won’t do anything and really regret it. How do I balance all these impulses?
What to Do With Myself?
I’m sorry about your mom.
People who are a huge part of our lives often, and often without our knowing it, anchor us to a certain way of seeing ourselves. When those people are gone, new vantage points open up — even if we weren’t unhappy with the way things were before, and indeed even if we’d do anything to have the lost person back.
It’s also true that grief can motivate rash behaviors we later regret , so your desire for and wariness of change seem to strike a sensible balance as you work things out.
Do recognize, though, that while your boyfriend is rightly concerned given what he stands to lose, you can’t find the right path for you if you’re living to please someone else.
In fact, you can’t stop yourself from changing, period, be it to please him or to satisfy the cautious side of yourself. Trying to stop wouldn’t serve either of you anyway, so resolve to be honest with yourself and with him, and see what comes.
Even as you stick to your decision not to make sudden moves, you can take small, non-binding steps toward the life you’re envisioning. You can pay visits to your home town, for example, to see what it’s really like vs. what you’ve imagined, factoring in that newness always gives way to a reality you can never fully predict. You can also research the type of business you have in mind, etc. Not immediately, since your loss is still very new, but as soon as you feel more accustomed to this new state of things.
Re: What to do:
I can relate; I think it’s a normal thing. When my beloved family member died (and I was alone otherwise), I suddenly felt like I just wanted to move into that small town, find a husband, and settle into a simple life. Which is nothing like me at all.
I did a lot of self-reflection. It helped me figure out what I was missing, and home in on what my needs really were. I did not settle into that small town, but I definitely modified my choices in life.
I like this, thanks — treating the impulses not as literal marching orders, but instead as clues.