How NOT to Help Someone Through the Grieving Process TIP#5

How NOT to... Grief Tip #5

In life, many of us find it difficult to determine the balance between two differing sides. The ability to walk directly between two behaviors is very important when it comes to the phase of grief that I am talking about today.

Once all the services are over, all the condolences have been read, and all the grievers have gone, the loss stays. Even still, you may be required to get back into your daily life and your daily schedule. For many, it is helpful to have a place to go and something to do, and while every person grieves differently, many will agree that getting back to “normal” can be comforting.

Sometimes the people that you interact with in your daily life will pretend that nothing ever happened. They will act as if you didn’t just go through this huge, difficult loss. Other times they will tiptoe around your feelings, look at you with sad eyes, and create a big elephant in the room.

What we need instead is to understand compassion. Compassion doesn’t require you to have sad eyes, worry about what you say, or stop being yourself. Compassion recognizes the loss and shows concern through helpful action. It is strong. It is aware of emotions and feelings and behaves accordingly. It lifts people up and encourages. It takes in sorrow and replaces it with hope.Compassion walks the line between indifference and pity. 

And if we want to be helpful, we need to find that line.

On a side note, be the friend that remembers the important dates on someone’s grief timeline. Remember their loved one’s birthday, their wedding anniversary, and their first time being without Dad on Father’s day. Be the friend that remembers every single year. Be aware that on certain days they will feel the loss all over again. Remembering is one of many ways to show your compassion.

Don’t forget that when a person passes, the grieving process doesn’t end when the services do. Learning how to behave in the weeks and months following a death is just as important as learning how to act at the funeral. Remember what compassion is, and learn how to walk the line.

How NOT to Help Someone Through the Grieving Process TIP #4

How NOT to... Grief Tip #4

Here is the fourth tip! There is not much to explain about this one, but the advice still rings true. When supporting someone and encouraging them through their grief, try to recommend that they wait months or even a full year before they make any dramatic changes!

Transitioning into life without your loved one is hard enough on its own. People that are in grief often think that a change of scenery or pace or job or really any kind of change will be better. They are looking for ways to shield, lessen, or busy themselves through their grief, but this is not a good idea.

The loss itself is a huge and dramatic change. Give yourself time to adjust to a new phase of life; new habits, new traditions, new responsibilities. Encourage and advise someone dealing with grief to make all decisions slowly and only once enough time has passed.

How NOT to Help Someone Through the Grieving Process TIP #3

How NOT to... Grief Tip #3

This tip is probably the one that matters the very most to me. When I hear it happen, I cringe. I think it is SO important to read this and put it into practice. Today, we’re talking about comparisons.

As humans, death is a part of life. SO many of us have lost someone we love. Whether it was naturally from a long, well-lived life, or shortened by a tragic accident, whether it was an extended death that allowed for time to say goodbye or a sudden, shocking loss that takes your breath away, it hurts very badly every single time you lose someone.

Every person wants to know that the life of their loved one mattered. That is why we compare. When someone else is dealing with a loss, you may be reminded of your own loss, and maybe for a lack of something to say you tell their story and you make a comparison or talk about your loved one’s life. The problem is that when someone has just experienced a loss, your comparison is hollow to them. My advice would be to make sure that in their sadness, you focus your attention on their loved one. Do what you can to help make THAT life feel important, make it matter, give it purpose.

This is their loss journey, what they need most is NOT someone that will unintentionally hijack their journey and make it about their own losses, but someone that will come alongside them in the present loss so that they are not alone in the face of their own grief. 

None of this means that we shouldn’t share our losses with each other to support one another, because we should. But take note of the fact that awareness matters, and timing matters, and intentions matter. It is important to me that I differentiate between giving advice about facts and information and sharing about your own emotions and grief. This whole process can be overwhelming and confusing, so if you have tips or helpful information, I’m sure they would be well received. Just avoid making this time about your own loss(es), instead choose to focus on their person, their emotions, their grief.

So remember what I mentioned in the last article, the very best things to say are “I am so sorry,” and anything that you remember or loved about the person that they have lost. 

Every. Single. Loss. deserves to have its very own set of tears, memories, and sadness. Be in the present moment with those who are experiencing the current loss.

How NOT to Help Someone Through the Grieving Process TIP#2

How NOT to... Grief Tip #2

It’s Tuesday! Here is Tip #2 for How NOT to Help Someone Through the Grieving Process! This tip is all about cliche’s. In our culture, it is common for people to want to avoid cliche’s. We all want to retain a certain level of individualism, and yet somehow people always bring these commonly used phrases into a funeral home. Apparently, cliche’s are welcome here.

My thought is that most people that come to a funeral feel uncomfortable. They aren’t sure what to say, they feel awkward, and they truly want to help, so they say what they hear everyone else saying, which unfortunately is usually the opposite of helpful.

This week I want to CHALLENGE you, be confident and be different. Speak from your heart and not from your awkwardness. Don’t be afraid to laugh with someone about how their ditsy sister accidentally put diesel gasoline into the minivan, or the time that he made a fire and then walked around with ashes on his forehead, or how she ALWAYS blew her straw wrapper directly at your eyeballs.

The info graphic that I put together for this tip has a list of certain cliche’s that I hear ALL THE TIME! However, right now I want to focus on the things that I think you actually should say! And don’t worry, they are not long monologues or things that are hard to remember, we’re going to keep it simple.

1 ) Two words I don’t hear nearly enough are “I’m sorry.” In these words are empathy, compassion, and support of their grief. For right now, they need to hear that their crazy, wild emotions are justified. And these two magical words help them to feel that. Trust me, these two words are as good as gold when you are attempting to comfort someone in deep grief (and honestly they should be spoken more often by all of us).

2) ANY words about their loved one, any stories or special moments that you might have shared with them. The things that you will miss about their sister, or what you loved about their husband, or their child. Make this moment about them, about their grief. Be present with them in their sadness. Help them to define the things and the moments that they will remember for years to come about the person that they loved.

3) Let them know that they are not alone. That you are available, present, and close by. People need support in different ways, some need to be alone, some require acts of service, some just need a hug. With your actions and your words be available to them. Oftentimes, they will not tell you what they need, so take the initiative and think outside the box.

That’s it. This is not rocket science. It’s just a matter of placing yourself in their shoes, dropping your narcissism, showing compassion, remembering their loved one, and letting them know they are supported. Make this time about them, be selfless and be strong. 

How NOT to Help Someone Through the Grieving Process TIP#1

How NOT to... Grief Tip #1

As promised, here is TIP #1 for NOT helping someone through grief. If you know a person that is going through a shock, a death, a time of grief, you should definitely try to fix the situation for them… okay maybe not.

The problem with trying to “fix it” is that you can’t. You literally cannot fix the root of the problem. When a death occurs, the situation is completely out of your hands. Unless you can bring someone back to live a longer, fuller life, you will not be able to fix it for them.

You cannot fix it with encouraging words or a night out, with laughter or a hug. You can’t fix it with a listening ear or with an unprompted favor completed, with a warm meal, or a thoughtful gift. It will not be fixed. All of these things are helpful and kind, but they must be done without expectation. You must decide to resign power and control, because a person dealing with grief must go through the process over time and in their own heart to come out on the other side, not fixed, but healed. 

From what I have experienced, this eagerness to “fix” is common. It’s a gut reaction when you feel out of control and helpless, when you see someone suffering and want so badly to make it stop, but trust me, a friend, sister, son, grandchild, or person that can stop trying to fix and control and change the situation, can be a solace and a strength to someone that is struggling amidst their grief. Because their grief looks very similar. It makes them feel out of control, powerless, and hopeless. And unfortunately, they have to power through that feeling, relenting their control, to get to a brighter day.

So be present in all of the ways I listed above, but do not expect them to change as a result of your actions, give them time to heal and provide them with strength. They will heal, they will move forward, they will laugh again, smile at the good times, and one day they will be a strength and a solace to another grieving heart.

How NOT to Help Someone Through the Grieving Process

How NOT to... Grief Tip #1 (Conflict Copy)

Over the next 6 weeks, I will be posting tips about “How NOT to Help Someone Through the Grieving Process.”

Every day, as I walk through this process with families, I notice things that are helpful for them and things that are not! NO ONE intends to make loss harder for someone, but so often they do.

Going to a funeral can sometimes breed uncomfortable feelings. It is hard to know how to respond to death and loss, so when it becomes your turn to offer words of comfort to the family there is a tendency to blurt out whatever you have heard other people say. Unfortunately, other people don’t necessarily know what to say either.

This series of blog posts and info-graphics, is meant to help us all be more intentional about how we respond to death and loss. If we can change our negative habits into favorable ones, we will not only eliminate our own feelings of awkwardness, but help families who have experienced a loss heal in the best possible way. 

Be looking for these posts, because every grieving person needs a rock, someone to lean on in this hard time, and that rock could be you.

Resources:

https://beremembered.com/idea-center/article/things-not-do-helping-person-through-grieving-process

http://www.leannepenny.com/2013/12/03/12-grief-cliches-and-the-reasons-they-suck/

When Christmas is Hard

Christmas is sacred: a time for joy, celebration, giving, and love. There is always so much anticipation associated with this grand holiday. From the gifts, traditions, programs, and light shows, it’s no wonder we get so caught up in all the hustle and bustle of this glorious season.

Every one of us has our own stories and our own memories of Christmas. For many, those stories and memories are lavished in joy. For others, the memories of Christmas are stained with sadness and even loss.

The majority of MY Christmases are overflowing with nothing but utter happiness, as is most of my unbelievably blessed life. However, one of my Christmas memories is soured by grief and sadness because it was the last time that I saw someone that I loved very much.

I remember every detail of the day that I found out I lost him. I was only a freshman in college, waking up with a whole list of class-related worries, in a tiny dorm room. Looking back, those concerns were so small and pointless. On my way to class my sister called because she needed to meet me, and because I had a test, I was reluctant to say the least. However, when I saw her, she looked worried and my mind immediately went to all the people I love. In an instant fear struck me. She told me that Codi, my cousin by blood and brother by heart, had been shot in the head and hadn’t made it. This news made me hurt in ways I had never felt before. But the memories of Codi Ray Jackson are nothing but sweet, and I have so many of them; a million stories about that dark haired boy that I grew up with, started school with, cheered on the sidelines for, and loved with all my heart.

Image

Each Christmas my thoughts are largely comprised of those memories, partly because of all the Christmases we spent together, and the gifts we gave and received to and from one another, but also because the Christmas of 2010 was, as I said, the last time I saw him.

Growing up, we were inseparable. So much so that they called us “salt and pepper.” However, in later years we had made conflicting life decisions and had grown apart. The reality of our strained relationship was highlighted at this particular Christmas when, despite my best efforts, we barely talked. In my imaginative mind, I always believed that one-day we would be close again, an idea that made it easier to handle the distance between us throughout that particular Christmas.

Because of all that, you can imagine my frustration each year when I realize that Christmas reminds me of the last time I saw him. You can understand my sadness when I grasp that I do not get to give him a gift or a hug. You can sense my chagrin at the idea of spending another Christmas without him and never having the future relationship that I had hoped for.

IMG_0455

Fortunately, for me, and for those with a similar story, life is a journey. Every day is full of blessings waiting to be discovered, and despite my frustration, I truly believe that a decision must be made to think about the meaning of this season even though it can hold sadness for those of us who have lost someone we love.

The season of advent is all about remembering the first coming of Jesus Christ, and looking forward to the second. That is the hope and the spirit of Christmastime. There are symbols of this hope spread throughout Christmas, even the beloved Christmas tree (evergreen) represents the hope of eternal life that comes through Christ and serves as a reminder of the freshness of God’s love and promises.

As Christmas quickly approaches, be aware of those little blessings and make a conscious choice to appreciate them. Let them fill you up with hope, peace, and goodwill to men. And may they allow you, despite grief, to have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!

With love,
Addison Koch

Image

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” -A.A. Milne