Thursday, September 3, 2015

Being good at grief -

I originally posted this on 12/11/13

Being good at helping other people grieve is, unfortunately, an important skill to have. 
When we witness friends and loved ones suffering or grieving we want to act and often we don't know what to do. The fear of doing the wrong thing in terrible situations is enough to cripple some of us from doing anything. 

I have several friends that have graciously shared their opinions about what helped them when they experienced incredible loss and trauma and I have combined it with my opinions as well.

For the record “grief” is anything that makes a loved one suffer. We all know it when we see it and feel it. We all know the hierarchy of grief – what is the worst compared to something not as bad. Grief is grief though, no matter how the world categorizes certain types of loss.

1) Act quickly – Our own sadness and our uncertainty sometimes gives us pause. A phone call and voicemail is not recommended. Chances are they don’t want to “talk.”  An immediate text, email, facebook or note in the mail is perfect.  Going to their home is important too and I’ll talk about that in number 3.

I once waited two days before going to a friend’s house when her daughter was killed in a car accident.  That felt soon to me, because I didn’t want to “intrude,” and it wasn’t soon enough.  Immediate is best.

2) Do not tell them anything, except:
- how much you love them,
-are thinking of them
-and are so upset for them.

I think things go wrong when people are “told” things – the person/animal is better off, not suffering, God has a plan, you will get over this, it will be okay, it’s not fair, they are with God now, you deserve better, it’s not your fault, etc.  Less is more. Their religion and how they choose to categorize the loss is up to them and maybe you at a later time depending on your relationship.

The goal now is to comfort them immediately, not define the loss. No matter anything about the loss – you are sorry, you love them, and you are here for them.  Period.

3) Go and see them if possible. 

Go as soon as possible – even if it is to stop by their house on your way home, give them a hug and tell them you will be back in two days to help. Or stop by, give them a hug and leave. See them immediately if possible and physically hug them.

When we found out we were not going to be able to adopt the baby we had waited 8 months for, we were in shock.  A dear friend of mine came over to our house and practically walked in. She hugged me and wanted to know every detail. If she had called and asked if she could come over or just told me she was on her way I would have said “No, please don’t come.” I felt a mess and didn’t feel like visiting.  But having her just do it felt so good.  I had several do this when Ralph died as well, and it is weird to me how comforting it was to have people in my home. 

Bring something and not food. I learned this from my friends who lost children.  They didn’t want to eat and there was so much food in the house.  I was told that everyday items were more help (which is our goal). Toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent, Ziploc bags, etc. 

-Do something, don’t ask – If there is a key person at the house that is doing a lot, ask them, otherwise, feel free to wipe down the counters, take out the trash, pet and play with the pets. Hand them a drink, make sure they are sitting down when talking to other visitors, answer the door, etc.

If you don’t feel close enough to some one, then just go to the house, hug them, tell them how sorry you are, tell them you will check on them in a couple of days and then leave.

If going to see them is not feasible then mailing a note**/card/flowers/gift/something is nice. None of it will bring someone back or make cancer go away, but it could never hurt to make someone feel loved - in my opinion.

4). Follow up.  Checking on them each week or a few times a month, or a year, or every day, etc - depending on the trauma - is thoughtful. It acknowledges the pain and gives them a chance to talk if they wish.  If it is too painful they will say that too and you can move on easily and talk about other things - acknowledging  something significant and also a distraction are, in my opinion, two very helpful things for people to do. 

I typically deal with most things in my life with humor, but sometimes there is simply no place for jokes or lightening the mood. I hate those places!

** Writing a note can be REALLY HARD!!  Sometimes I just stare at my blank note card. I believe the best thing to say in a note is what I talk about in number 2. Don't say anything except that you love them and you are sorry and you are thinking of them and you are there for them. Death/Cancer/Loss/Divorce/Anything terrible - no matter what - just tell someone you are thinking of them.

What in the hey does this have to do with being a Tired Girl??  I don't know.  I just know that I have needed this skill a lot in the last few years and thought other people may too, so I saved up some energy, did some research and made these Cliff's Notes on how we can help friends and loved ones.  

Anyone have anything to add about this?

P.S.  Are you still reading this? The absolute worst thing to do is nothing. Our discomfort in the face of something terrible needs to be gotten over for the other person's sake.  And on the flip side we don't know exactly what hurts people.  I'd rather make too big of a deal of a break-up or the loss of a hamster than to neglect the hearts of people I care about.   

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