Updated: Apr 5, 2020
It goes without saying that grief is hard. It’s one of the most difficult journeys a person will make. It’s unfortunate society in general does not know and is not taught that harsh reality. Before death and loss hit close to home for me, I was so ignorant of grief. I honestly thought grief was a few days, maybe a week or so in duration, then you get back to work and you move on with life. End of story. I knew it would involve some sadness and some tears but certainly not months later. I know….stupid! But generally speaking, I think society is much the same in its understanding of grief. But what makes it even more difficult is not only are we not educated on what to expect in the grief process, we are also not taught how to come along side those who are grieving or how to help them in the process. Most of us are really good in those initial days and maybe even the first few weeks of being there for someone who is facing the loss of a loved one. We make food, we clean, we run errands and take care of various tasks, we send cards and messages and a whole host of things to try and help in time of need. What we fail to realize is grief has only just begun when the outpouring of assistance is coming to an end. After those first few weeks, we expect a person to be well on their way back to normal, being able to engage in life and with us as they always have. When that doesn’t happen, we think something is seriously wrong with the person. And what’s even worse is the person who is grieving feels abandoned, neglected and thinks people must really not care about them because everyone begins to back off. And then, those grieving begin to isolate because no one cares or understands. THEN those around begin to back off because they don’t know what to do and even take the withdrawal personally. And on and on it goes! What in the world do we do with all that?!
The answer is very simple and yet very difficult all at the same time. We need to talk. Those who are grieving need to speak up and let those around them know what they are thinking, how they are feeling and most of all what they need. One of the hardest things for me to do was to accept help but it was PAINFUL for me to ask for it. But people don’t know if you don’t tell them. They cannot read your mind. Also, those who are grieving have to look beyond the action (or lack thereof) and see the heart of people. You know who loves you and wants desperately to fix it for you. They may not always do or say the right thing. Sometimes, they may do or say something really dumb but you can know their heart meant well towards you. And for those who are in the position of caretaking, you need to ask what you can do to help. I’m certain you will get the “I’m fine” response. Trust me, they are not fine! When you don’t get specific direction on what to do, simply be…be available, be present, be in touch, be patient, be persistent…just be. Don’t take the many expressions and facets of grief personally. Understand it’s a very real and extremely fierce battle going on inside a person. You just be there to love and support and encourage along the way. One of the best things you can do for someone you love who is grieving is to sit with them and not say a word. Just listen, and don’t be afraid or uncomfortable with silence. Your presence will be like gold to them in the midst of their grief.
The journey through grief is not easy. It is not easy for the one grieving and it is not easy for those coming along side. It’s for certain there will be obstacles to work around. There will be steps forward and steps backward. There will be stumbling and even falling down. But working together through the process of grief will bring great healing and blessing to all.