Suddenly Single: 6 Important Questions to Ask

By Ellen Gerst

Losing a mate from death is a press pause moment. You can compare it to pausing a recording on your television. Your life as you knew it gets derailed, and so you step off the platform and take a hiatus to figure out the new facts of your life. In order to do this, you can act like a reporter on assignment by asking the six basic questions of who, what, where, when, why and how.

In regard to each term, here are some sample questions you may ask yourself.


Who are you now?

  • You are no longer part of a couple, but you don’t really feel single. You are caught in a no man’s land and, in order to move both feet firmly into singledom, you need to readjust the picture you hold of yourself and your late spouse, including the relationship you had with him or her.


What are you going to do now that you are alone and the circumstances of your life have changed?

  • It is always your choice how you will reflectively respond to circumstances rather than reflexively react, which does not usually end well. Taking the appropriate time to examine and process your emotions will allow you to accept and come to terms with your grief in a healthy and proactive manner.


Where are you going to turn?

  • Everything seems unfamiliar now. Think of your life as a foreign film where you have to read the subtitles to understand what is going on, but either the words are blurry or it’s going too fast for you to make sense of it.

The question of where could also be taken more literally, for example, where are you going to live or work now?

  • Many widow/ers need to move out of their homes due to financial difficulties. Others need to go back to work to support a family. This is a time to reevaluate your options, for example, would it be worthwhile or feasible to take the time to go back to school to increase your marketability?


You may question when you are going to feel normal again.

  • I’m sorry to say that the definition of normal has changed. Now there’s a “new normal” to which you must become accustomed.


 “Why did this happen to me?”

  • This is the cry of many a person who has experienced loss. Consider that God, or whatever you call Him, did not pick you out of the masses so that you and your loved ones should suffer. Coming to peace with your circumstances and then finding a way to use them as a launching pad for a new life is the best way to find a resolution for this issue.


You may wonder, “How am I going to get through this time and do I have the necessary tools to help myself?”

  • Ask yourself, “What would I do if I were going to do something that I had never done before or hadn’t done in a long time?” Some of the ways you could prepare yourself may include: reading about it, listening to others who have had similar experiences, asking friends and family for support and guidance, engaging a coach to help you devise a plan, and going online. In other words, you would do research to get the tools to complete this task successfully.

Although you may allow yourself time to “get up to speed” in regard to a new professional endeavor or circumstance, it is common to “beat yourself up” for failing to feel better after trying to mourn a loss without any instruction on how to do so in a healthy manner.

The sad truth is that society does not teach its populace how to deal with loss. Most times, it is brushed under the rug; many feel awkward around death and, consequently, may shun their friends in the direst time of need. The bereaved are sometimes treated as if they have a disease, and working on grief is even referred to as grief recovery. I ask, was there an illness from which one needed to recover? Instead, grief is more of a journey a mourner takes of introspection and questioning (such as the six posed above) to get to the other side I like to call renewal.

So, what is one way to reach this seemingly elusive and far-away renewal? Well, I’m sure you have heard or the three R’s in regard to learning, which are Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic. I suggest you utilize the following new three R’s to spur you out of mourning and towards renewal: Rethink, Reconfigure and Refresh.

As you review your answers to the questions of who, what, when, where, why and how, think about how you can redesign (and then reconstruct) your life to be able to welcome new life and new love into it. Gently let go of the pause button and refresh the picture of your life!

©2011, Ellen Gerst

Ellen Gerst is a Grief and Relationship Coach, workshop leader and the author of several books on both subjects. She writes from a “been there, done that” perspective, utilizing both her personal experience as a young widow and her professional expertise. This article is an excerpt from her newest and soon-to-be published book, Suddenly Single. Connect with Ellen via Facebook to receive tips on finding love after loss, coping with grief, and confidence and the mind/body wellness connection. Visit her website for more information on her coaching services and other products.


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