pexels-photo-356842 GRIEF

Photo Credit: Pixabay

It’s not so much the fact that loved ones die that keeps us mourning, but the fact we are here without them. In especially close relationships the grief seems unbearable. When that special someone is the person we shared our intimate thoughts with, confided in, laughed with, cried with, shared life with, the desolation is brutal. It’s said that time heals all wounds, but I disagree with that sentiment. I think we carry the wounds for the rest of our lives, but time does help us carry on, despite the wounds. I think the worst thing about grief is the way it takes us back to experience anew every single occasion where we lost someone we loved like some kind of twisted and tortuous boomerang.

In today’s world it seems like grief is either ignored, shamed, or bullied into a dark closet. But people can only begin to heal once they feel safe and their emotions validated. I find it strange how, in our society at least, that people are so uncomfortable with grief. Yet death is the one thing that is an absolute guarantee. It will come to each of us – nobody is getting out of here alive.

In my family it’s okay to talk about death – though we, as individuals, may deal with the aftermath in different ways. Some seem so dry-eyed and strong while others cry copious tears and wear their hearts on their sleeves. It doesn’t matter what the personal expression of grief may be, it is, by and large, respected and accepted.

I remember years ago when I went back to school after a sudden death in the family how uncomfortable and awkward most of my classmates were around me. But there were two very young men who approached me to say ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ and how much their simple expression of condolences meant to me.

So, my advice would be, don’t be afraid to express simple condolences. While a grieving person may be in pain, your words may bring them a bit of comfort. Don’t be afraid to mention the person who died – most people are grateful to have their loved ones remembered. I think it hurts more to be ignored or to not have your pain acknowledged and/or validated.

I am speaking from my own personal experience, which may vary greatly with the next person’s. But I think we, as a society, have much to learn about coping with death. And to me ignoring it is not an option.

13 thoughts on “To speak or not to speak: Responding to Grief

  1. You are right. Sometimes people are uncomfortable around the expression of grief. They may not know what to say or how to behave. Sometimes one isn’t even sure how the words of condolences will be received.

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  2. Yes, people need the opportunity to talk about their departed loved one. It’s not as though not mentioning them will make the grieving person forget their grief!
    I agree, too, that sometimes a simple hug or crying with the mourner can be more helpful than words. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

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  3. I think you are spot on. People often say nothing or avoid you because they are afraid of saying the wrong thing because – let’s face it – people DO often say some really brutal shit, even if their intentions are benevolent. But I think it’s better to at least ACKNOWLEDGE the loss and how hard it must be. This feels like a safe bet. And is always appreciated.

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  4. I lead a drop-in meditation group at a hospice. You are not alone in what you describe about people being uncomfortable around death. From what I have been exposed to at the hospice, it would seem that people avoiding being around people who are grieving is fairly common. Sad.

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    1. I think they are just uncomfortable and do not know what to say or how to act – mainly it is people who have not had much experience with death. To me it is just part of life and not to be feared….but that’s just my opinion.

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      1. I agree with you completely. For me too, it’s just a part of life. I’ve always been comfortable around it. I had a friend once in a city where I used to live whose parent was dying. All of his friends abandoned him; he needed to talk. Things were pretty rough; he was only 22 years old at the time. I told him that I’d love to go have a coffee with him to chat if he didn’t mind that I might cry. He knew I cared; we were both comfortable with whatever manifested. I was so happy that I could be there for him. I feel like I was given such a gift that evening.

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      2. I think that you gave him a lovely gift as well – validation! There have been deaths in my family all through my life, and though it was incredibly hard and painful to lose loved ones it helped me learn the fragility and preciousness of life itself.

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