When someone we love experiences the death of a loved one, a divorce or any other major life event we often do not know how to help them in this period of grief and loss. In our efforts to alleviate pain we often fall back on platitudes such as:
You are lucky to have your other two children
She is in a better place.
Everything happens for a reason.
Be glad that she lived such a long life.
They wouldn’t want you to be sad.
Another type of comfort suggests that somehow we will be better for this dreadful experience.
You will be braver and stronger going forward.
You will love again.
You are young enough to have another baby.
The grieving person does not feel comforted but rather feels irritable or even angry when hearing these supposedly well meaning words.
Many people going through grief feel misunderstood and abandoned. They get the impression that they should get over it and return to “normal” and be happy. If this does not happen then the griever must be sick.
In fact there is no timetable, some people take longer than others to deal with their grief. Life will not return to normal in the case, for example, of the loss of a mother. Her presence has gone and so have your hopes and dreams for future times when you thought she would see your grandaughter graduate from high school.
I highly recommend “It’s OK that You’re NOT OK” by Megan Devine. The author lost her husband to a freak drowning accident. She writes in beautiful language about her own grief experiences and shares stories written by people who attended her writing workshops.
Devine says “There is nothing wrong with grief. It’s a natural extension of love. It’s a healthy and sane response to loss”.
In grief there are emotional, cognitive and physical symptoms that may surprise you.
We all expect sadness but their are other symptoms that you may not even realize relate to your loss. For example, you may be forgetful or distracted. You may find that you do not want to socialize or be involved in activities that you used to enjoy. You may want to isolate from your family and no longer enjoy family gatherings or parties. You might experience increased tiredness, aches and pains and poor or interrupted sleep.
Suggestions for helping
Many people very much want to help a grieving loved one. Because they are often unsure of what to do or say they may do nothing leaving the grieving person feeling abandoned and confused.
Here are some examples based on an essay written by Megan Devine.
1.The grief belongs to your friend so follow her lead. Because the loss seems the same (mother for example) it does not follow that yo know how your friend is feeling or that what comforted you may comfort her.
2.Stay present and stick with the truth. “This hurts, I love you, I support you you” are both factual and caring.
3.Do not say anything that tries to fix the unfixable.
4.This is not about you. You may feel hurt or unappreciated. Lean on your friends.
5. Anticipate, don’t ask. Make concrete offers such as “I can walk the dog Monday to Friday at 8am to I’ll get your recycling to the curb” You could help by organizing a few friends to do various routine tasks.
6. Don’t do anything that is irreversible such as throwing things away or doing laundry without asking first.
7. Tackle difficult projects together by following your friends lead. Do as she wishes not hpw you think is best.
8. Educate and advocate. Share what you know.
9. You can be the point person sending out an email updating other friends on details of the service for example.
It is difficult for a grieving person to be bombarde with phone calls and emails.
10. Show your love, be there. Do not turn away.
“It’s OK that You’re NOT OK” by Megan Devine.