Someone recently said that you shouldn’t grieve until the person is actually gone. Part of me agrees. Yet, part of me is familiar with that technique among others that I get advised to take. Grief is defined as a loss of something. If you perceive you’ve lost something or are losing something, is that not grief as well?
Couples divorcing grieve over the life they envisioned for themselves, growing old with a wife/husband, that will never happen. After a serious injury athletes grieve over the dream career they will never be able to achieve. Grief to me, is loss, whether realized or pending. Grief for me set in when hospice sat us down with calm voices and soft smiles to tell us about the end of life care they can provide for my dad. He’s 59. Grief set in.
Maybe he will live long enough to walk me down the aisle or to hear my child affectionately call him PaPa. Maybe. There’s hope in maybe. There’s heartbreak in maybe. I’ve lived through both. What is definite is that we will forgive, shower love and try to convince time to slow down in the coming months or years. What is Certain is that we will watch him grow weaker and the heart beat that echoed in my ears as a child will fail him. We will watch him leave.
A close brother-in-law.
We watched sudden and slowly as they left.
Around times such as these there will be a band of people confident that their sage advice about “death happens to all of us” and “enjoy the time you have/had” will be of comfort when it’s just infuriating for the person on the receiving end of it. Personally, I don’t want pity; I would settle for the closest thing to understanding.
To help both sides through difficult grieving, here are some ways to support your loved one and also some tips for those who are in the grieving process.
You don’t have to be happy, peaceful or “together”
Recently, years of grieving has taken its toll on me emotionally and mentally. There use to be a time when I dished out and took the beautifully simplistic advice that others throw out in times like these. That was about three deaths ago. For those of us born into a family where hospitals and funerals are the norm like reunions and yearly cruises are for other families, it’s easy to hide or downplay your grief. Don’t. It’s the process necessary for you to get back to living your life. At times during this process you may be angry and want to scream or want to be alone to cry. It’s okay. Feel what you need to feel in those moments. The world won’t give you permission to be a mess right now but I will.
Sage Advice #1 SAY LESS
So you’re along for the ride on your loved one’s grief and let’s be honest; it’s a complete downer. When you’re not in their front row seat some advice seems logical. But this is the time when you should SAY LESS. Between all the different stages of grief including anger, which I’m currently in, the last thing your loved one needs are words. If you MUST say something it should be confined to something like this:
I love you. I know this has to be hard for you but I am here every step of the way. Period.
Tip #2 It is not Your job to make others comfortable with your grief
Like the first advice of feeling what you need to regardless of others, this goes hand-in-hand. Negative emotions generally make people uncomfortable. They say too much or not enough. They smother you or avoid you. It’s because negative emotions, especially grief, are things we are convinced should be hidden and dealt with alone in the late hours of night. Work only gives you 3 days to process it because society dictates it’s not important. Get Over It. So essentially most of us are terrible at dealing with it. Expressing your grief, trying to gain control of it or make sense of your situation will make other people uncomfortable.
Their world could be just fine and you are like a rain cloud sitting next to them. Understand their awkwardness or discomfort but don’t apologize for it.
Sage Advice #2 Create Peace
Your loved one’s world just got turned upside down and the grief of their world has created chaos in your otherwise peaceful relationship. It’s then important for you to create peace, for your sake and theirs. They likely don’t expect you to know what to say. And just as you are confused on what to do or how to handle things, so are they. So, depending on their personality something like taking in nature, to make sense of life or playing Call of Duty, to distract from it, could be the thing you both need to find peace in a chaotic situation.
Personally, I don’t want pity; I would settle for the closest thing to understanding.
Tip #3 & Sage Advice #3 Give Yourself Space when needed
The reality of the situation makes it hard to be honest with ourselves. Someone who’s constantly dealing with negative emotions can strain/stress someone who isn’t use to them or the frequency of them. Getting the space needed to ground yourself but not so much that you’re absent from the scene can create harmony in a less than ideal situation. It is, however, important to communicate this because seeking space in a critical moment can cause a rift in an already emotionally charged environment. Love each other enough to see the other’s perspective while loving yourself enough to get the space needed to be true to your emotions, good and bad.
The tips and advice discussed are there to get you both thinking of ways you can improve this experience so that all parties are getting what they need. Grief is not a science nor is it controllable but our actions are. Make sure you’re caring for each other during this time.
So Builders, what are some other tips or advice that can help during the grieving process. Comment below and Let’s Talk!