A lot of things happen when someone close to us dies. There are the expected stages of the grieving process: binge-watching Netflix, working way too much, not working at all, baking, lots of sex, no sex at all, isolating yourself, or not leaving a moment to be alone. It depends wholly on the griever and their process. But there’s an odd phenomena that people rarely tell you about (or at least, no one ever told me about): there’s an opening. A big, gaping, void that feels uncomfortable for everyone close to it. Unbearable, even.
While this void is something that I’ve seen over and over with clients, I’ll share a personal experience with the dilemma. My mom, Joyce, died when I was 21 years old. I was at the start of my senior year of college, and I applied a combination of the aforementioned coping mechanisms along with neurotic running, a generous amount of drinking, and tons of sleep. At the actual moment of her death, I was three parts exhausted, two parts underweight, and a pinch hysterical. I even laughed at her funeral. The combination of all the theatrics of the day, the relief that my mom was no longer suffering, and the dark, inside jokes with my sisters made the minister’s program seem like a bad stand-up set. Most people don’t understand what that unique cocktail of feelings is like unless they’ve experienced a similar loss. However, the behaviors of others just slightly less nuclear are predictable in some ways.
Friends and family take care of you with casseroles and check-ins for approximately one to three (three if you’re lucky) months. Then what? Without any formal communication or cue, you are somehow expected to take care of them. As if the five pounds mac and cheese they made you were meant to lull you into a coma long enough that when you come out the other end you’re a new version of your (now dead) mother. These people miss the old Queen. They miss her phone calls, her unyielding positivity, her voice. Most of all, they miss the reflection of themselves they used to see in her. Without knowing, his crown gets passed to you. All of a sudden, you’re responsible for a whole kingdom when all you wanted was to be the town eccentric with four overweight bulldogs. You are now responsible for filling this void, for wearing the crown.
All the while, you, too are really, really missing your old Queen. She supported you, loved you, and gave you the best queenly advice imaginable. So the question becomes: What are you going to do with the crown?
The way I see it, you have a few options:
Try it on. Hey, maybe it’s a perfect fit and you have a great new accessory and a role that fits you perfectly, too. The kingdom’s operations carry on without a hitch and nobles and peasants alike rejoice. Long live the (new) queen.
Throw it in alligator-infested drawbridge waters. So long, suckers! The Queen is dead and so is the monarchy. Time to figure out your own damn lives and invent democracy or some shit.
Pass it to someone else. Sometimes the second in line to the throne (or the 4th or 17th for that matter) is just itching in their wool pantaloons to fill the spot and lead the kingdom. Let them.
Find your town blacksmith and melt that bad boy down. Take whatever jewels you love and donate the rest to the town’s jester-development-scholarship-fund. You’ll keep the beautiful things your loved one gifted you and turn it into a representation of who you really are.
As for me, I never became the town eccentric with gelatinous bulldogs (still working on that one). I did melt Joyce’s crown down, though. It just didn’t fit. But I took her championing spirit, her wit, her compassion, and her love for other humans with me. And, with that rack of gems, I actually became the town blacksmith.
So what are we to do with the voids we’re dealt? Whose crown has been unknowingly bestowed upon us? Do we wear it? Do we pass it? If you’re hoping to recreate your family legacy and integrate the best pieces of that dusty old crown, reach out. The world is waiting for your unique design to hit the bazaar.