Note: Despite being preoccupied assisting an ill, loved one, I pray that I can make more consistent entries!
There are no easy answers about how best to assist those grieving a significant loss including that of a spouse, child, grandparent, aunt, friend or anyone else that someone may have loved. There is probably no greater challenge in life than to face personal loss! But here are a few ideas on how we might be present to others. Never say to a grieving person that things could be worse as there is nothing worse than a loss; your world may be the same after a funeral but the widow or widower’s world is usually tumultuous. Indeed, he or she may appear strong but they may be in too great a shock and too numb to realize fully what has just occurred. In fact, it may be some three months later when supporters say “he must be over it by now”; it is usually then that the grief may become worse as the full impact of the loss sets in. Sufferers will often feel overwhelmed and worry that they are going insane. Many times the grieving, months later, will pine for a friend to talk about their loss only to find the visitor will talk about everything except the person who is missing. After all, we may worry that we will upset the lonely individual if we broach the sensitive topic.
Hence, if there is no one available to listen, the mourner may conclude that no one understands them and that their ability to cope is poor! In reality, we must learn to empathize even if the situation make us nervous. If the mourner is ready, talking about their loved one’s life and the memories it evokes may be very helpful. Find any way you can to let your friend know that you will help them get through the crisis. Do not pretend you have all the answers but instead, simply listen to the person who may wish to retell, repeatedly, their story. Respect that everyone may grieve differently than others and that the above are merely guidelines for assisting others. Certainly grieving for a loved one is an indication that the person really cares for another. Unfortunately, in this life, there is much we cannot control; hence, our task whether we be Christians, some other faith group or good humanists is to help each other through this journey we call life. Remember what you say is not nearly as important as how you make the person feel after your visit!
*** I wish to thank and acknowledge Dr.Bill Webster for sharing his wisdom about the grieving process.