I live in the suburbs of Minneapolis, so if I want to go outside, I need to make sure I grab my fleece. If you live in the Forgotten Realms of D&D, you need to grab your longbow, take time to put on your studded leather armor, take a cleric with you, and roll 1200 saving throws in order to check for traps.
The world of D&D is no freaking joke, y’all. Monsters are everywhere. Sure, it gets cold in Minneapolis, but if I had goblins stabbing at me every 1d4 rounds rounds, I’d flat out lose my gourd. In the Forgotten Realms of D&D, death by monster is just something you’ll have to deal with if you ever plan on going outside at all.
Let’s be clear, danger is not limited to unmapped wilds between Waterdeep and Baldur’s Gate, either. See that tree just outside the Rusty Dragon Inn? Chances are pretty good that there is some sort of crazy fey creature living in there, assuming of course that the tree itself is not actually a treant. You know that old trunk where you keep your backpack, bedroll, flint & steel, hooded lantern with three flasks of oil, trail rations for seven days, and waterskin? Um, actually, that thing is probably a mimic, just waiting for you to stick your hand in there.
The point is that Dungeons and Dragons is a nightmarish world of constant danger, where you are no more than one random encounter roll from something wanting to eat you.
But the flip side of the coin is that D&D danger is actually pretty easy to deal with. Every time you kill something, you get the experience, skills, and gear that allow you to kill even more stuff. And D&D has a solidly murder-based economy, so yay.
As a result, D&D treats death as little more than an inconvenience. You can just roll up another another character.
OK, here is where the article takes a turn from silly D&D talk into recognizing that in our real world, coping with the death of a loved one is a serious issue. At some point in our lives, each of us will will have to deal with the reality that someone who is close to us will fail their saving throw. If you are reading this and those emotions are hitting a little more close to home, then I humbly offer some tips that might help you navigate those seas of emotion.
Reach out to others. In my previous day job, I interacted with a lot of folks of the WW II generation and even as I saw them advance into their late 80s or early 90s, for some reason we just think they’ll be around with us forever. But as they pass, it’s a reminder of the different reality.
Death is a constant for all of us, so no matter the circumstances surrounding what you are feeling, you can find others who have experienced a similar loss. Many of those folks are eager to provide a listening ear for you. As they make the offer of “if there is anything I can do,” take them up on it and meet them for coffee. Reaching out to others simply to talk about it is an important step in coping with loss.
Practice your religion. The old rituals of organized religion are sometimes referred to as liturgy, and the rhythm of such rituals can be comforting in that they can help connect us to something outside ourselves. If religion hasn’t been your thing, then maybe give thought to embracing something new to you. New spiritual concepts and prayers may help you deal with your loss.
Participate in your hobbies. Start painting miniatures, which is meditation for nerds. Write more. Take up board gaming. Play more RPGs.
Balance this with more exercise. Getting your body moving at least three times a week will strengthen you mentally, emotionally, and physically. The point is that the tendency of mourners is to stay at home and brood, but exercise and hobbies are a much better option to help you cope with loss.
Engage your emotions. The above isn’t to suggest that you somehow need to take up things simply to distract you from your grieving. Try to get into your emotions, whatever they are. They likely run a broad gamut. Take some time to identify them. This is important, because unidentified or suppressed emotions only bubble up later.
Talk to a professional. Listen, this is just my clumsy attempt at writing a D&D post in the hope it might provide a touch of encouragement. So schedule something with someone with professional training, either individual or in a group. Those sessions will you will be able to identify your emotions and release them.
Honor your deceased loved one in a way special to them. Did you hike together? Then maybe plant a tree in his or her honor. Did you game together? Then bury their dice under a tree that you pretend is a treant. I don’t know, the point is to represent your deceased loved one symbolically and have a little ceremony in their honor.
But stay hopeful. D&D is just a game where death is a mere inconvenience. Real life death stings. But I promise you that your loved one would want you to continue leveling up at life, so make sure your grieving doesn’t keep you from continuing to adventure.