I am grieving. I’m sure you know what that’s like. You may not have recently experienced the death of a loved one as I did, but you have a sense of what I’m going through.
There are really two parts to any “death”, be it the death of a dream, a relationship, a loved one, or anything else of significance. There’s the “loss”, and there’s the “grief”. Loss is an event, or a change, or what’s missing. Grief is a set of emotional reactions.
Loss has many forms. Let’s use the example of a job change. Even if the job change is desired, there may be loss of income, loss of a nice commute, loss of friendships with coworkers, loss of important benefits, loss of a comfortable routine, loss of a predictable schedule, loss of security, and so on. The losses are defined by the person experiencing them, and no one else. Person A who has a job change may not mind at all that the commute to the new job is longer; while Person B hates driving, so a longer commute is a hardship. It’s personal. In my case, I feel strongly the loss of the enormous and uplifting presence of this patriarch of our family. Not everyone in my family feels his death in this same way. And that’s OK.
Grief is the set of emotions evoked by the losses. If there’s no sense of loss, then there’s no grief. Grief is a process and a journey. It is individual, takes time, is unpredictable, and surprising. The intensity of one’s grief is influenced by the significance, meaning, and importance attached to the loss. So, just like loss, grief is personal. Though similar in many ways, mine is different from yours. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
To help someone going through any of this, all you have to do is:
Open up your heart,
Value their perspective, and
Ensure their basic needs are met.
When someone is grieving, let them grieve, let them feel, let them talk, let them be silent. Resist the temptation to cheer them up because that often comes from our own discomfort of being around someone who is grieving. This is the time to be sensitive to their needs, so ask them what they need. Also, please make sure the grieving are eating and attending to other basic life necessities, and only the basic necessities. When deeply grieving, we Americans have a tendency to want to do too much and take care of everyone else. We do this to avoid our painful feelings. The only way to cope with grief is to let it happen. It doesn’t last forever.
Here’s what to do when the loss is yours:
Give it time and Go with the flow. Grief is a process and a journey, not an event.
Rest and Rely on others to assist in the most basic tasks of daily living. You may find everyday tasks to be more challenging; that’s normal.
Identify the specific losses you feel and learn what matters most to you. This helps the healing process.
Embrace relationships with safe, non-judging people and pour out your heart, even if it's the middle of the night. You don’t have to go through this alone.
Free yourself to Feel whatever comes your way and whenever it comes your way. It’s your journey, not anyone else’s.
Remember, it doesn’t last forever.
If you want to help someone who is grieving, L-O-V-E them. If it’s you who is on this journey, let the G-R-I-E-F happen.
If you'd like some help coping with your losses and grief, then consider contacting a mental health professional, such as me. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it can make.