Supporting Others in Their Season of Grief
Grief, like life, is unpredictable just like the changing of our seasons. It is filled with the bustling of new life in the Spring, excitement of Summer and family vacations, shedding leaves in the Fall, upcoming holidays, then comes the cold and longer nights of winter preparing the land for the renewal of Spring. Just like the changing of seasons our lives are filled with excitement, love, joy, new life, and yes even darkness. Grief waltzes in and turns our life upside down.
Over many years I have had the honor of accompanying parents, spouses, children, and families who are grieving the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship. Grief is an immovable part of our lives. As holidays approach and time change ushers in longer nights our grief changes as well. We are reminded at each holiday gathering of what we are missing, the longer nights and holidays can cause our grief to intensify.
So how are we to handle this time of year? Many articles have been written with helpful suggestions for the griever, I would like to share ways in which you can help others in their grief.
How do we accompany our friends and family during this season of their life? Megan Devine, in her book It’s OK That You’re Not OK, beautifully outlines ways that we can support those in their grief. Remember that grief belongs to the griever, and you have an important role to play by supporting them and being fully present. The following are my recommendations:
- Stay present and state the truth, do not try to fix the unfixable, grief is not something you can fix or make better.
- Be willing to witness their pain.
- Become an advocate, if someone asks about the griever be honest, you can say, “some days are better than others,” or “grief never ends.”
- Anticipate, don’t ask. Don’t wait for their call or for the griever to reach out, they may not know what they need so make concrete offers.
- Above all love, be willing to listen and know that you do not have the answers.
The most important thing I have learned from those who are grieving is that it is a relief for them to share stories. In telling their stories it allows for healing and remembrance. While in this season of our life we may only be able to see our grief and the fog that comes with it is endless and blinding. In the ever-changing seasons of our grief what we need is to allow those grieving to follow their hearts and provide them with grace, love, and empathy.
For the griever, your feelings, no matter what they are; fearful, angry, anxious, disconnected, or the multitude of other emotions that make you feel as-if you are going crazy, is normal. If you feel stuck, reach out for support, you do not have to be alone in your grief. Finally, it is okay for you to take a break from your grief, although it may seem impossible, however taking a break is necessary.
Melissa Francis, LCMHC has extensive background in grief and loss, having worked with numerous families while serving at Hospice of Lake Norman. She is a trauma informed therapist with training in EMDR, and is clinically interested in serving couples and marriages maintain healthy communication and connections. She works out of our Denver, NC office and can be reached at 704-483-3783.