Many people I’ve spoken with about grief think that there is a “time of mourning”. This would suggest a beginning as well as an end. I believe that grief is a journey that has no end date, it simply changes over time. There are many different stages of this journey, however; grieving a loss doesn’t come to some sort of end during our lifetime it merely changes as time travels forward.
Over the last year as our family experienced several deaths, both expected and unexpected. I observed the reactions of family and friends to these losses. Based on these observations I created 4 grief reaction categories.
- Action Heroes: these are the “get it done” grievers who spring into action, coordinating, communicating and arranging, as if being in constant motion will keep them from the painful reality of the loss.
- Lamenters: these grievers bemoan their grief and cannot have any conversation without bringing awareness to their loss, focusing mostly on their guilt and regrets associated with the loss.
- Frozen Stiffs: almost paralyzed by the loss they cannot be in action, nor can they bemoan their loss. They usually have a somewhat blank affect and are unable to make any decisions, even simple ones.
- Disconnects: this category of mourners literally detach themselves emotionally from the situation and functions in a “business as usual” atmosphere.
Clearly, there is no right or wrong way to react to tragedy and, for those of us trying to support our grieving friends and family, we should keep in mind that grief is more of a marathon than a sprint.
Suggestions on how to help others in the days, weeks and years that pass after a loss.
- Stay connected: reach out to those who are grieving especially during the year following the loss. Recognize important dates ( birthdays/ anniversaries) of the person who is gone.
- Give them permission to have fun: Sometimes we need to give others permission to laugh in spite of their loss. However; don’t push them too much to get out and have fun, they will need to do this in their own time. There will be times when they will want to and other times when they will not.
- Sometimes there are no words and that is ok! You don’t always need to have something to say, sometimes just showing up and sitting with them can be enough.
- Help them in finding support from professionals such as a grief counselor or Pastor. Offer to make the call to a counselor/Pastor for them. Though grief is a journey, some people can get stuck in the overwhelming feeling of their loss and need professional help to move them forward.
I’m sure there are many more ideas to support to those around us who are grieving so please feel free to post your ideas.
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