To borrow a line from pro football, our culture encourages us to think of grieving the death of a loved one as “three and out." In other words, we get three days off from our jobs to deal with a death, including the funeral, burial and tying up loose ends, then it’s back to work as if nothing happened.
Our response to death tends to follow this same pattern. We jump right in with good intentions, such as meals, visits, phone calls, texts, messages, cards and flowers. But, very soon after the funeral, we go back to our lives, leaving grievers alone, isolated and wondering what happened to all that support.
Grief is not a three and out process, but can take some time. How long varies considerably from person to person and the nature of the loss. Some may feel grief very deeply; others not so much. Be aware that grief can come in waves and grievers may feel worse some months or even a year later than just after the initial loss. Grief does not have to last forever, but at times it can feel like it will never end.
So, what can you do? Instead of going three and out, go three and in:
1. Do not overwhelm grievers with good intentions. Rather, stay in touch and do not assume everything is fine. It may be, but then again, it may not. Ask grievers what they need and for how long. Then, do what you can to fill those needs for as long as they are needed.
2. Listen with your heart. Most often grievers just want to be heard; no advice, no platitudes – just acceptance. Listening with your heart honors those who are grieving, validates their feelings and relieves their isolation. Be respectful of their energy level and time, however. A few minutes can do wonders, whereas an hour or more can be exhausting.
3. Remember, grieving is about grievers, not about you. This is not the time for you to talk about your losses and your grief experiences. Keep your focus on them, and leave yourself out of it.
If you have any questions or would like to talk, please call me at 404-771-9335. As a certified grief recovery specialist, I can help. Remember: Grief occurs with all sorts of losses, not just death or divorce.
The Grief Recovery Method® is a transformative program that provides a safe, confidential opportunity to gain a better understanding of grief and the myths and misinformation our society perpetuates about grief and the grieving process. It also teaches specific action steps to say goodbye to the pain and heartache caused by loss. The Grief Recovery Method® is not therapy, but an educational program. It is available in an eight-week grief support group or a seven-week one-on-one format.
© Ekteleo Ministry, 2017. All Rights Reserved.