“I don’t know how to be this”


People go through life learning how to do many things. It begins early with a baby learning to crawl, walk, and run. Children are educated to read, write, and work with numbers. Teenagers learn to drive as they gain independence and earn responsibility.

You are often times defined by what you can do. Artists draw and paint; athletics run and work out; teachers educate and share knowledge. There are times though, when we are defined not by what we do, but by what we have become. It is at these moments of definition that we on the grief journey might say, “I don’t know how to be this.”

When Alan died and I was taken back one final time in the emergency room to collect his belongings and leave the hospital, I looked at my friends surrounding me and thought those very words. “I don’t know how to be this.” I don’t know how to be a widow, a single parent, or the sole provider for my family. Suddenly I found myself in a new and frightening position for which there is no real training. Death has a way of leveling the playing field. Mortality stares you in the face and life is deemed short and time fleeting.

Where do you go to learn how to walk through death and sorrow? How do you find a way to deal with the sudden demands of a new way of life? What can you find to hold on to as you feel yourself reeling with shock, fear, and numbness? When you find yourself saying, “I don’t know how to be this” do not give up. Cling to what you know and strive to fight your way to the top as you gasp for air and relief.

You can know that regardless of your loss, you are loved. It may not feel like it in the midst of great pain. Sorrow has a way of momentarily blocking out other emotions. However, hold on to the fact – the truth – that even if no one else is in the room with you, you are never truly alone. God promises to be by your side through thick and thin; in joy or sorrow; today and for all your tomorrows.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38, 39 (NIV)

So how do you get to the point when you can stop saying, “I don’t know how to be this?” Begin learning and walking forward on your grief journey. Join a support group. GriefShare was of great help to me in the early months of facing my loss. Go online and search for a group in your community.

Give yourself permission to realize you are still you and are not just defined by what has happened in your life. Open up and allow others to minister to and care for you. Refuse to give in to the desire to isolate and hide behind closed doors. While time of reflection can be healing, too much time alone can bring detachment and make the loneliness more severe.

It takes work to journey through grief. So when you find yourself saying, “I don’t know how to be this,” do not despair. Education does not happen overnight. Just as you have learned so many skills early on in life, have faith and be assured you can also figure out how to live life a new way and be who you are today.

Until next time –


Let me encourage you to share Grief Letters with those you know walking through loss and sadness. This devotion book is filled with stories of my own journey as well as suggested activities written to help achieve forward progress through grief.


Grief Letters By Karen Bransgrove, Published by WestBow Press. You can order here.

Hardcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869674

Softcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869667

E-Book | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869650

Also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.