I’ve said it many times, but it bears repeating. Grief is never easy, but it can be made easier. There are many ways our grief load can become lighter with the changing of certain factors in our mourning, but the best way is to increase somehow the amount of support, encouragement and care you receive from those around us. How can we mourners make our grief easier?
Many mourners experience a lack of supportive people around them. The majority of those folks who are poor comforters for us just don’t have a clue about grief, what we are going through and what we might need. And I would guess that the majority of the people around us mourners are compassionate, empathetic and want to help, they just don’t know how. How can we mourners change that situation?
- Teach our friends, family and co-workers about grief, specifically our grief experience. People around us mourners get it that something horrible has happened and that we hurt. They don’t always “get” grief and its impact on us. Because they don’t understand grief and how it affects the mourner, they feel helpless and uncomfortable around us. And when people feel uncomfortable they can say and do things that end up not being very helpful and sometimes harmful. Mourners can help their potential supporters by explaining and expressing the grief that they are experiencing. That means telling our story as many times as it takes to find a person who can become an important part of our support system. That means we mourners have to get over our fears that what we will share with others will make them sad or drive them away from us. At the same time, we mourners need to walk a fine line between sharing enough and sharing too much or too often with the person who is supportive.
- Tell the folks around us, what we as mourners need.
Remind them that grief is a natural human response to the loss of a loved one and that it is not an illness, mental or emotional disorder, a bad perspective or attitude, or a sin. So there is nothing wrong with you. You will just need time to process and progress in your grief. Also let them know that there is no set timetable on grief and that you may need help, support, encouragement and care for some time.
If they ask how they can help and you don’t know exactly what you need from them, thank them for listening and say that you will have to think over their offer of help and let them know later.
If they offer to help in ways that you had not expected, be gracious and accept their gift of love and compassion as long as it is not overly intrusive. Remember: it is more blessed to give than to receive. So what happens when you reject a gift is that you steal their potential blessing that they can experience. If they give unsolicited advice, accept it with a smile and tell them politely what you really need is for them to be present, to be available and to listen without judging or trying to fix you or your situation.
If you don’t ask for what you need in your grief, most likely you may not get it. So don’t’ be afraid to ask for what you need from potential supporters who are compassionate and sympathetic toward your story and experience. That way you raise your chances of getting help, support, encouragement and care that will lighten your grief burden.
By doing these steps you will potentially increase your support system and the amount of help you receive in your grief journey.
Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise” and the Spanish version “El Amor Nunca Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa” available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and http://grief-works.org/book.php . Also available for Kindle and Nook. Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX http://grief-works.org.