149: How to Navigate the Loss of a Mentor

Nothing is comparable to the special kind of pain felt when a close mentor transitions. The pain is often associated with memories or moments that we’ve had with them, but more so the lessons they didn’t have time to teach us. It’s as if our personal journeys have lost direction, and we find ourselves suddenly lost. What we can’t see, in the blurriness of our pain, is that a true mentor never really dies. Their work lives on in us.

Grieving The Loss of a Mentor – 01:10

Different people build different mentor-mentee relationships that can quite possibly last a lifetime. Although some relationships never seem to go past certain stages of our lives, some of us are blessed to have mentors who became family. As for me, I’ve had three mentors that I’d call influential and who helped mold the person I am today. Unfortunately, I’ve had to deal with losing three of them, and I’ll admit it hasn’t been easy. I struggled to come to terms with the loss and struggled even more talking about it. 

My First Mentor – 02:58

As a first-gen, I obviously didn’t have many people to look up to. So when I was in high school, I had this teacher who saw my true potential and pushed me to chase my dreams and become the person I’ve always wanted to become. He helped send college applications and crafted catchy recommendation letters that I’d say helped me land the college of my dreams. Sadly he passed away when I was in my second or third year of college. Although it had been long since we last spoke, it was painful. Because here I am enjoying college life and the person who helped me get to where I am is no longer with us. 

My Second Mentor – 04:55

My second mentor was my dean in college. Although she was my dean, she was incredible in every way and more like my aunt than my dean. She taught me a lot of things that I would have struggled to figure out on my own. She was the one person I could be myself around and manage to open up to without fear of getting judged. After My Ph.D., I came back and worked with her for a whole year, which was an experience like no other. After a year of working with her, I reached a point when I needed to find my true purpose in life and quit my job. Two weeks after I quit my job, she passed on, and it was heartbreaking. I had just started my entrepreneurial journey, and now I had no one to turn to for advice. I was so used to having her around that I was completely crushed by the fact that she won’t be able to witness my accomplishments. 

My Third Mentor – 11:31

My first two mentors influenced my academic life, but my third mentor taught me all about my professional life. Throughout my college life, I worked for this one-man, who instilled in me leadership qualities, problem-solving skills, and the entrepreneurial spirit. After graduating, I couldn’t really go back home, and so I stuck around with the hope of finally making it. I used to live with my best friend, and as things got tough, I was forced to go back to my mentor in search of work. I couldn’t work for him because I had already graduated, but he still got me a job, which I suspect payment came from his own pocket. He sadly passed on three years after I graduated. 

The Next Action Steps After a Mentor’s Death – 19:26

If you’ve ever had a mentor who passed on or should you ever lose a mentor, there are a couple of things that will help you cope the same way they helped me cope with the loss. It won’t be easy, and they definitely won’t guarantee a quick fix, but they’ll lighten the burden on your shoulder. 

Let Yourself Feel How You Feel – 21:03

Nobody but you knows the extent to which your mentor changed your life, so people won’t really understand how you feel about the whole thing. Some people might recognize that you were close to the person, but since you’re not family, they automatically assume that it’s not that big of a deal. So, never let someone dictate how you should feel whenever your mentor passes on. You had a personal relationship with the person; thus, no one should tell you how you should deal with your loss.

Don’t Be In a Rush To Replace Your Mentor – 22:31

The first instinct that kicks in after losing a mentor is the need to find a replacement. However, the kind of relationship you can build with one mentor is not the same one you’ll enjoy with another one. Mentors are simply irreplaceable, but that doesn’t mean that you should close yourself up from having mentors. While it’s advisable not to rush the whole situation, be open to having newer mentors. The right people will eventually come at the right time for the right reasons. 

Become a Mentor and Carry on The Legacy – 24:15

I have been a mentor in the past, but it took losing a mentor before I could finally show up as a better mentor. I found myself teaching my mentees what my mentors taught me and passing on the knowledge and life lessons I learned in the time I spent with them. I might not be as influential or as knowledgeable as they once were, but I’m happy that I continue to carry on the legacy left behind by people who meant something to me. 

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