Grief: Sharing a Personal Experience
As human beings, we are all interconnected to some extent. Yet, many times we’re not sure how strong the connections are that we have with other people. Those connections are tested when someone we know experiences a loss. We feel fragile and uncertain when that loss happens. We don’t know how to express ourselves, how to provide comfort, or how to even break the ice to talk to our friend our family member that is grieving. So, sometimes we decide to say or do nothing because we don’t know where to begin. Yes grief is a close personal emotion, but we should take the opportunity to reach out to a grief stricken friend or family member and allow that person to share his or her grief with us. Some thoughts I’ve noticed on sharing grief.
1. Don’t be afraid to say something. Offer your sincere condolences; written notes work just as well as a phone call. How you contact the other person depends on how well you know the person. Think twice about unannounced visits though.
2. Give them space to grieve. Respect the grieving person’s comfort zone and grieving process. After initially reaching out, let them take the next step. Don’t try to alter their grieving process by pushing your own ideas and plans about how to grieve, on them.
3. Let them know you care. Offer to help. Let them know you are there for them. Simply offering to talk or meet for lunch is more than enough. However, the offer to help must be something that you are willing to follow up on and follow through with. Don’t commit to something you can’t complete.
4. Follow up after the loss has aged. People need support even more so after the initial grieving period is over. As time passes, it doesn’t mean that the grieving process is over. It’s important to follow up by letting someone know you are still thinking of them.
5. Let them discuss or talk. If you’re given the opportunity to discuss their loss with them, be a supportive listener. It isn’t about solving their immediate grief or making it go away. By listening, you allow the person to work through their grief. Don’t compare your situation to their situation or give examples of what you’ve gone through recently. For the moment the focus should be on them. Listening is the best therapy for the moment.
6. Let them grieve on their own terms. Don’t judge them and the process they are taking to grieve. Don’t force them to handle the grief how you would handle the same situation. In this instance it is all about them and working through their grief. Don’t make them change their grief process to meet your needs.
7. Grief changes over time but it doesn’t go away. Even if you haven’t taken the opportunity to connect with someone who’s grieving it is never too late. It is always better to reach out to someone later on, than to ignore the situation altogether.
Through our lives we all go through a grief cycle, loss of a loved one, job, or a dream in life. Don’t let uncertainty stop you from taking steps to share grief with someone. It may make you uncomfortable to take that first step and reach out to someone. But in the end, you’ll be glad you did.