Grief. A human experience that can take your breath away and make you forget how to breathe. I have had a recent loss in my life, my husband. Although shocking and devastating, it has inspired me to write. I have walked through grief with hundreds of people throughout my career as a helper. It’s an honour and a privilege to walk with people through the most painful and devastating time of their lives. People honour us everyday by allowing us into their vulnerable place of fear, loss, sorrow, sadness and soul shattering pain.
In my own relationship with grief, I cannot help but reflect on how uncomfortable we, as a society, are with grief. If it wasn’t so hurtful, it might be even comical. From the socially awkward comments such as “he’s in a better place” or “things happen for a reason” to people literally backing away from you as if you are carrying the deadly plague of grief. It’s not contagious people! Grief comes into your life suddenly without your consent and makes itself comfortable in your spare room. Like that unwanted family member who shows up at your door at 1:00 am needing a place to crash for a day and then a month later you realize that your unwanted guest is still there.
So what can you do to be more comfortable with grief and show support? Here are four things to keep in mind:
- Nothing you say will make it better. Grief is simply grief. There is no magic thing you can say to alleviate the person from the hurt. It’s best to show your love and support by simply telling the person that you love them, that you’re thinking about them and are sending them positive thoughts. Don’t complicate it.
- Avoid the clichés. Not sure why people think that clichés are comforting, because it’s not at all. Things like “in time you’ll feel happy again”, “he’s at peace now”, “you’ll find love again”, “he’s in a better place”, etc. It just isn’t helpful.
- Be comfortable with tears. People cry and it’s best that they express their emotions instead of holding them in in an effort to make others feel comfortable. Allow people to cry it out and feel your supportive presence. You don’t need to “do” anything, just be there.
- Face your discomfort with someone’s grief and show up. Call, text, email, show up in your own way… but don’t give in to the discomfort and abandon the person. This leaves them feeling alone in their pain, and causes them to feel responsible for your discomfort. Don’t make the grieving person responsible for making you feel better.