There are losses that we experience in our lives both big and small. There are ideas and hopes that somehow don’t work out. There are choices, decisions, and risks that don’t materialize. These are losses that we experience nearly every day, and these losses are important to recognize and grieve. Through grieving, these losses have lessons that we can learn from which will make you smarter, stronger, and more resilient.
But some losses are tragic and catastrophic, like the loss of a family member. We can accept the idea that death comes to us all, but our lives are changed by the pain of the absence of those closest to us. We grieve these losses for the rest of our lives.
Recurring grief isn’t morbid thinking. It isn’t overindulgence of feeling or habitual moroseness. It isn’t depression or a lack of coping strategies. It is the rememberance of loss that comes with reminders, anniversaries, birthdays, etc.
The truth is that we must accept and support others through their rememberance of their loss. Support is given through love, acceptance and patience. These are the appropriate responses we can bring to those in their times of remembering loss.
I am frequently told by clients, “I don’t know what to do when someone is grieving, crying or inconsolable.” My response to them is this, “You don’t have to say anything, you just have to be with them. Accept the intensity of their feeling. Give them touch and suspend your problem solving. Grief isn’t a problem to solve. It is a process to share. If you can sit with them in their time of sorrow peacefully, you are giving them a gift of loving presence. And your loving presence is healing. It allows the grieving to move through the person.”
Here are a few platitudes I think are helpful to avoid when someone is grieving the loss of another:
“This too will pass”
“Everything happens for a reason”
“It is time to move on”
“Others have suffered greatly as well”
Evaluate your own beliefs around loss and death. Realize that your beliefs might not be shared by those aggrieved. In your efforts to help, your beliefs can actually hinder or complicate the bereaved’s feelings. And recognize if you are feeling frustrated, impatient, or overwhelmed yourself. You’ll need support too. Get a support team together to take turns. Take a break. Or try helping in other ways like coordinating support or helping with cleaning or preparing foods. And be kind to yourself if you make mistakes while trying to help. Soothe your frustration and make your repairs.
Here are some helpful things to ask or say:
“How can I support you right now?”
“Would you like to tell me what you are feeling? I will sit with you without trying to console you.”
“I am here with you.”
The grief process will work itself through. Like waves that ebb and flow, this is the natural process for remembering our loss.
To those grieving, let me tell you that there are people in your life with wisdom about grief. They are those that have had the courage to live through their own grief. You can reach out to them. And if you feel suicidal or out of control, seek professional help. 1-800-273-8255 is the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. There are also therapists that are trained in grief/loss therapy.
You are not alone. You are loved.
In rememberance of those we’ve lost:
Good-night! good-night! as we so oft have said
Beneath this roof at midnight, in the days
That are no more, and shall no more return.
Thou hast but taken up thy lamp and gone to bed;
I stay a little longer, as one stays
To cover up the embers that still burn.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow