Experiencing loss is difficult, especially when it’s the loss of a parent, a dear friend, a marriage or a dream.Loss of a job can cause a loss of self-esteem and life direction.It creates unwanted change, forcing an end of one state and pushing us into another without our advance permission.When we lose someone or something of great value to us, we are challenged to accept a new internal and external reality.And with loss, inevitably and unavoidably, comes grief.
Grief is complicated, painful beyond imagination and unpredictable.It can be insidious and enduring and convinces the bearer that it will never loosen its grip.It can be overwhelming and all consuming, causing loneliness and isolation.Grief is the mental, emotional and physical state the “griever” exists in after loss and it does not have a time frame.It can be ugly, angry, sad, depressed or completely denied.It often likes to pop up in the most inopportune times and acts like a shadow.Grief demands time and cannot be rushed.And most of all, the loss and subsequent grief requires the bearer to adjust to both, creating a new reality and perspective.
So how can you help a co-worker, a family member or friend who has had a loss and is in the process of grieving?
Rule No. 1: Listen.Listen again.And listen some more.And when you think are done listening, keep listening.
Rule No. 2: Honor their feelings.Demonstrate that you hear their pain, their struggle, their anger, their whatever.It’s their stuff – be a witness.Name it for them.
Rule No. 3: Speak little and when you do, do not offer platitudes such as “Everything happens for a reason” or “It’s God’s plan” or “The sun always comes out after the rain storm”.The platitudes only serve to give you hope, not the griever.If it were that simple, they would have thought of it themselves.
Rule No. 4: Remember there is no timeline.Even though you think all is back to normal on the surface, it likely is not.Remember that their grief is unpredictable and needs TLC for as long as it does.
Rule No. 5: Don’t avoid.I know it is uncomfortable to witness and feel others pain but there is no greater gift that one can give another in their time of grief.Be present.Keep showing up.Keep calling.Keep reaching out.One of those attempts will result in a reply. Then repeat Rule 1 through 4.