How To Mourn: Help For Those Who Grieve and the Ones Who Support Them
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If you or someone you know has lost a loved one, the following tips may help you cope with the loss:. When a loved one dies, it affects all their family members and loved ones. Each family finds its own ways of coping with death. It takes time for a bereaved family to regain its balance. Each person will experience the loss differently and have different needs.
Ways to support someone who is grieving
This is not the time for family members to hide their emotions to try and protect one another. The loss of one person in a family means that roles in the family will change. Family members will need to talk about the effects of this change and work out the shift in responsibilities. This time of change is stressful for everyone.
This is a time to be even more gentle and patient with each other. Facing the death of a child may be the hardest thing a parent ever has to do. People who have lost a child have stronger grief reactions. They often have more anger, guilt, physical symptoms, greater depression, and a loss of meaning and purpose in life. This support system can dissolve quickly as people return to their normal routines. The phone stops ringing and the bereaved may find their days and nights to be long and lonely. It's about not walking away.
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Granted, you may part company after the funeral but a true ally doesn't stay away long; a better-than- good ally keeps checking in with the bereaved. Being a friend in need during this time can feel very difficult.
Things you can try to help with bereavement, grief and loss
Rachael Naomi Remen, M. D, wrote what she considers to be the focus of this grief work: "Grieving allows us to heal, to remember with love rather than pain. It is a sorting process. One by one you let go of things that are gone and you mourn for them. James Worden writes that the four things that must be completed in order to adjust to the death of a significant other are:. To accept the reality of the loss To process the pain of grief To adjust to a world without the deceased To find an enduring connection with the deceased in the midst of embarking on a new life.
Those four tasks define the work of grieving. In no way should you impose a limit on the amount of time their bereavement takes; the only limitations you can set have to do with any negative behaviors you witness. Is your friend using alcohol or drugs to manage their emotions? We sat in awkward silence. But now I understand. Maybe we could just get together and go see a movie.
The distraction would probably be good for you.
Somehow I extricated myself from the excruciating conversation and hung up. I slumped in speechless disbelief as her words seeped into my pores. Sadie was honest. But at what cost? In the midst of my traumatic loss, she abandoned me….
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Because she was uncomfortable. Try waking up in my empty bed every morning! I know Sadie had the best of intentions. Situations like these leave us reeling:. Bereavement, terminal illness, unspeakable violence, mental illness — these are only a handful of irrevocable life events that can yield indescribable suffering and grief in normal, everyday lives.
The awful truth is that such agony can only be endured, not cured. This kind of pain is inconsolable. On top of that, most information out there about how to help grieving loved ones consists of practical lists of tasks you can do or gifts you can give. The stronger the love, the more the pain.
Love itself is pain, you might say — the pain of being truly alive. Social reactions to this kind of anguish are varied, but most of the time when someone is experiencing raw, irrevocable grief, almost everyone is uncomfortable around them, like Sadie was around me. No one knows what to do or what to say. Even my fellow psychotherapists are frequently stymied when it comes to effectively helping people with these kinds of losses.
Why is this so? If wrenching grief is ubiquitous to the experience of being human, why do most people react with such intense discomfort?
Things you can try to help with bereavement, grief and loss
Your human brain is wired to be socially connected. An integral part of that social connection is a biological caregiving reflex: When you detect distress, especially in people you deeply care about, a kind of mirror-image distress occurs in you. This reaction is normal, and it can generate healthy care and concern.
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The only thing that will truly comfort them is to bring the dead person back to life, to make the cancer or mental illness go away, to undo the rape. The absolute truth is that you are powerless to change the conditions that are generating their pain, so you are powerless to comfort them. Therefore you as a caregiver feel utterly helpless at the very moment your biology is demanding that you render aid.
See Ossefort-Russell in Porges. When your caregiving reflex is hindered in this way, the natural order of things is thrown into chaos, and psychic distress occurs — for you! The need to help is so basic to you as a biological creature that the distress of helplessness, if left unconscious, can be overwhelming and can cause you to strongly defend against it.
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Unfortunately, unconscious involuntary self-protection against caregiver helplessness is exactly what twists well-intentioned help into a mockery of soothing. Your mind builds a firewall of illusions that keep the burning reality of the randomness of life, your ultimate lack of control, and the inconsolability of grief and suffering from scorching you. So you blunder about with awkwardness when you face a griever. You thrash around saying and doing things you think are helpful, but which are in reality quite hurtful since the hidden underlying purpose of your actions is to alleviate your own anxiety.
When dominant narratives become so deeply embedded in a society, even those whom they oppress end up internalizing them. These stem from the thwarted caregiver instinct, so they ultimately end up being isolating and hurtful to grievers:. You advise hope. You make suggestions for activities that will make the person feel better. You point out positive aspects of the situation. You express certainty that your friend will be okay, maybe even stronger than ever before. As I said above, there is no fixing this problem.