In many ways, it’s more difficult for me to discuss grief than suicide. You would think it would be harder for me to talk about the suicide of my fiancee, Dan, than to talk about the grief I experienced after his death. But, when I talk about suicide, I talk about HIM. When I talk about grief, I have to open up about ME. Show all the pain I hid away for so long…
Yeah…that can get rough.
Below are the 2 posts I’ve written that are specifically about Grief. Please take a moment to check them out:
- Grief. Understand and surviving it ~ The stages of grief explained
- Grief is not a disease ~ What it’s like, how people treat you, what you can do to help someone who is grieving
Grief is a tricky emotion. You can’t just feel it, you have to move through it. It’s an emotion that actually involves an entire process. The stages of grief. We’ve all heard about them. But few of us ever take the time to actually understand them ~ until we are mired down in them.
What I found when I was grieving, was that the people in my life who were supposed to love me, did not support me or nurture me. Most of the comfort I received came from total strangers ~ in a Suicide Survivors support group, and online grief support groups.
This alarming reality is nothing new to me. My friends and family aren’t unusually callous or heartless. Most of the people I’ve talked to have had the same experience ~ those who love us most, support us least.
I think the reason they do it, is not because they don’t care, but because they don’t realize. At least, that is my hope. I think people in general are just as ignorant about grief support as they are about suicide prevention. The general population don’t know the warning signs of suicide, they don’t know how to help someone who is suicidal, and they also don’t know what actually goes on with a grieving person, nor how to help someone who is grieving.
First, to address all those who need to support someone who is grieving. Some simple rules:
- Don’t assume you know what they are going through. Unless you have experienced the exact same kind of loss, then you don’t know what it’s like. Don’t try to compare grief, or tell stories of your own loss, unless it is an exact match. And even if you have experienced the same kind of loss, you need to focus on them, not you.
- Grief lasts much longer than you think it should. Especially if the loss was of a person very close to your loved one. The loss of a significant other, a child, or the parent of a minor, are especially devastating losses, but any kind of loss can affect people differently. There is no time limit to grief, don’t try to determine when your loved one should “move on”. You need to actively reach out to the person on a regular basis for much longer than you think.
- It’s not the job of the grieving person to tell you they need support. Often, they will be too emotionally damaged to be able to do this. It’s your job to reach out and support them. Please do it often.
- You are not going to remind the person of what they have lost if you mention the deceased’s name. On the contrary, they are thinking about that person all the time and wondering if anyone will ever say their name again. Don’t be afraid to talk about the deceased.
- The grieving person will most likely repeat stories about the deceased. It’s normal and healthy. Let them talk, and listen without judging.
- Urge your loved one to join a grief support group and/or grief councilor. As much as you care, there is only so much you can provide for them. Better yet ~ take them to a support group/grief councilor yourself.
- Grief is different than clinical depression. But there IS a depression stage of grief. Recognize it as normal and healthy. At the same time, grief CAN lead to clinical depression. Again, urge your loved one to join a support group and/or see a grief councilor.
To those of you who are grieving:
- It WILL get better. I promise. I remember thinking I couldn’t make it 1 month, let alone 40 years. I imagined myself pining away the rest of my life. And, in all honesty, that was one of the reasons I came so close to suicide myself. I did not think it would ever get better. I was wrong.
- Refer to #2 above. Grief takes longer than you think. Expect at least a full year or more, to get through the worst of it, if it was a devastating loss. Most people I have talked to (including myself) felt that the acute pain was relieved after a year, but that the full measure of relief came after 2 years.
- The grieving process never ends. Even after that 1-2 years, your pain and grief will not fully end. You may, in fact “move on”, but you will NEVER “get over” you loss. This can actually be a comforting thought for you. When I was grieving, I was afraid that moving on meant leaving Dan behind ~ forgetting him, I was afraid that his life would no longer matter to me, that I would some how lose my love for him and the memories I had of him. Trust me, that will not happen. Do not be afraid of losing your loved one in this way.
- Your loved one DO care about you. I know, sometimes it seems like none of them care, and none of them understand. It’s true, they probably don’t understand, and that’s why it seems they don’t care. Don’t be afraid to let them know what you need. Refer them to this article or other sources of information on grief.
- Please join a grief support group and/or visit a grief councilor. Check out my Resources/Support page for places to start.
For additional information and sources of support, please visit my Resources/Support page. You can also check your local listings and Google. If you, or someone you care about is in crises, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7.