The death of a loved one evokes emotions that touch the very core of our being. The mystery of death, the fear of the unknown, the sadness of losing a soul mate, close friend or relative often leaves us feeling confused, angry and alone. Perhaps it is a time when much soul searching and questioning about the purpose of our own being is foremost in our minds.
When people lose someone very close to them or with whom they have shared a lifetime, it is often hard to believe that it has really happened. Often there is a wide range of intense feelings that follow. The sadness and emptiness can be overwhelming; people are often surprised when they feel angry or guilty, but all of these emotions are normal.
At some point, we each experience loss ourselves or are close to someone who is. Grief is not only caused by the death of a loved one, but can also be experienced through events such as retrenchment, separation or divorce, sudden or increasing disability, loss of a pet, or separation from home, family members or friends.
Often we do not know what to say to the grieving person and this can cause us to shy away from saying or doing anything. When people are helpful and supportive, they enhance the healing process which brings purpose and pleasure back into life.
An understanding pat on the shoulder, a handshake or a hug can say more than words, and will often be remembered as a source of great comfort and strength to those that are grieving.
If people are allowed to express and show their feelings, then they can start to deal with them. Crying is a natural and healthy process in times of grief. This may be what they need to release their hurt—tears of grief are in fact tears of healing.
A bereaved person often needs the support of someone who is willing to listen without judgement or advice; they need someone to listen and let them talk, to know that they will be accepted and loved without any ‘you should…’ or ‘should not’…’.
They may get upset when talking of their loss, but it is important to know that it is not you that is upsetting them—it is the loss that is upsetting.
When standing by children and young people in times of grief, understand that their grief is as real as that of adults. Treat their questions and their feelings honestly, seriously and sensitively. Allow them to benefit from the reality of going to the viewing and funeral, participating in the sadness and thanksgiving. Like adults, they feel grief too.
Time heals nothing. What time does do however, is allow people to adjust to their new circumstances. Usually the loss can never be replaced and the wound may never be completely healed. Eventually though, people can reach a point when they can finally go for an hour, a day, a week, or longer without the pain that the absence and emptiness brings.
Be Honest and Open
If you feel helpless, it is appropriate to say so. Being honest helps others to be honest as well. It is appropriate for you to say that something is sad if that is how you feel. However, be mindful not to dwell on your own feelings or impose your own reactions and feelings onto the grieving person as this is not helpful to them.
Dealing With Your Own Grief
Surround yourself with things that are alive; enjoy your garden, take in a stray kitten, talk to young children; or take up a new sport. You may benefit from reaffirming your faith either in religion, spirituality or other ideals that you may hold close. Remember to pamper yourself with a little treat—this will work wonders for your morale! Grief is a different journey for everyone; there is no right or wrong.