Listen with an open heart and be all ears, following every word and being totally there with them. Give them space and time to talk without interrupting or to tell their own story.
I wrote this article over a year ago after the tragic loss of a young man in our community, but I am posting it now after another heartbreaking loss has resurfaced to the forefront of all our minds. The remains of Madison Scott, a beautiful young woman who disappeared 12 years ago, have recently been found and our town has been thrown into shock, intense sadness, disbelief, anger and grief. It has been difficult for many (especially her family) to process this as 12 years is a long time to hold on to hope and fear regarding a missing child.
As this is a very high-profile case, many people have questions, theories, and suggestions, and may want their questions answered or their voices heard. What is needed more than anything at this time is privacy and respect for the family as they begin their grieving process. Please send love her way.
Grief is a natural response to loss and something we will all feel in our lives at one point or another: it is inevitable, just as loss is inevitable. Grief is the emotional suffering we feel when we lose someone or something we love and can be emotionally overwhelming with feelings of disbelief, shock, anger, regret, guilt and deep sadness. Bereavement can have a negative impact on health by causing intense stress, decreased appetite, impaired sleep, impaired thinking, and severe depression.
When we support each other, we often go into “problem solving mode” and try to make things better for the other person. But when we are faced with an intense emotional situation such as loss and grief (which we cannot improve), we often feel helpless and then uncomfortable, and may even avoid the person who needs our support. Many grieving people isolate themselves because they find it more comfortable to be alone than to deal with others’ discomfort with their grief. Too often, the grieving person has to offer comfort to those who come to them feeling powerless to help.
Grief is a very misunderstood subject and most people have no idea how to help or what to say to a grieving person, especially if they have lost a child. There seems to be no greater loss than the death of our children. My heart aches for the recent loss in our community and I have been reading as well as searching my own soul for answers on how to support parents and families who have lost a young family member.
It’s so hard to know what to say. Even the best-intentioned people say things that are not helpful to those who are grieving. ‘Don’t feel bad… I had a good life…’ When someone is in distress, we can try to make them feel better by discounting their feelingsbut grief-related feelings are deep, raw, and no one else can fix them, so telling someone not to feel bad doesn’t help at all.
‘Be strong’ implies that we should not feel weak and helpless. Or ‘be strong for others’ can mean that we should not show our human feelings in front of others because we are worried that our emotions will negatively affect them. Grieving people need to give themselves permission to break down and express any emotions that arise. This is part of the grieving process.
‘Just keep busy.’ Getting distracted or hearing from others that we need to keep busy is not the way to heal a broken heart. It will only occupy our day(s) but will not help us process the grief.
‘Time will heal’ or it just takes time’. But with grief, timing is tricky because some people don’t even begin the grieving process for many years after losing a loved one. But time will eventually lead to some emotional recovery. Belief and faith are very valuable in the grief recovery process. Grief should be allowed as a bath in which we immerse ourselves and allow ourselves the time and space to feel all the feelings in the present moment.
“How are you?” Although this is the most common question a grieving person is asked, it is often difficult to give a truthful answer, as we are conditioned to answer this question in a positive way so as not to make the questioner uncomfortable. The statement “She/He is fine after the loss of her” is a perception that can often be far from the truth. We don’t know another’s inner pain just because they’ve put on a brave face.
Bereaved people need to surround themselves with caring, supportive, caring people to do mundane things like help with cleaning, housework, farm animals, food preparation and cooking, gardening, or just being there with them. a loving intention
When offering support to those who are grieving, it helps to work through your own discomfort to be a safe and present friend. Listen with an open heart and be all ears, following every word and being totally there with them. Give them space and time to talk without interrupting or to tell their own story. Talking about a loss can be difficult but also very helpful for those who are grieving. Allow it all to come out without judging, correcting, or saying ‘I don’t feel that way…’. Resist offering suggestions or solutions. Imagine the kind of support you would want if you were in their position.
Talk about the person who died. Share memories and things you loved about them, as bereaved families appreciate hearing how their loved one made a difference or positively influenced others. When people avoid talking about the deceased, the family can often feel forgotten or that no one cares. Connect with family on birthdays, Christmas, and holidays, as these can be particularly hard days to get through. Hug and cry together. Feelings need to be processed and grief cannot be denied. Grief has its own schedule and gets away with it, whether we are prepared for it or not.
Seek mental health support and/or support groups to help you through the grieving process. With supportive people around us who have been (or are grieving), we can find comfort in realizing that we are not alone. Blessings to the hearts of those who have experienced grief or are currently in a state of grief and Rest In Peace, Madison, knowing how loved you are by your family and community.
Claire Nielsen is a health coach, author, public speaker, and founder of www.elixirforlife.ca. The information provided in the article above is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional health and medical advice. Consult a physician or healthcare provider if you are seeking medical advice, diagnosis and/or treatment.