Grief-Loss - It's Personal, Don't Tell
Me I'll Get Over It One More Time
By O'Della Wilson
Grief and loss are never easy to overcome and most
people just don't know what to do to assist others in
their grief. Often times, we simply state "I know this
is a difficult time for you right now, but you will get
over it" or we say, "Time heals all wounds."
We have all suffered some type of grief and loss, yet
trying to help someone during these same trials can
leave our good sense behind, and our words feeling empty
to the very person we are trying to help. When that
grief and loss is due to death, it is by far the most
difficult to overcome and usually requires a longer
period of healing.
There are many different processes of emotions a person
goes through when grieving. Not everyone will go through
all the same processes, nor even in the same order.
Trying to remember this can be a challenge in and of
itself, let alone trying to maintain any semblance of
what is deemed reasonable or to be expected.
The truth of that matter is while we attempt to help
others with our advice, more often than not, we actually
add stress and guilty feelings on the very person we
desire to console. This occurs despite our good
intentions because we trap ourselves within our own
emotions and forget the very things that truly helped
(or hindered) us deal with our own grief. We
instinctively and automatically become uncomfortable
when faced with someone who is grieving a loss. Guilt
rushes to the foreground, then both parties are overcome
with emotion and left feeling depleted.
Grieving any type of loss will invoke an array of
emotions. Emotions that can change very quickly or seem
to hang in the air forever. Initially, a loss will
invoke emotions of disbelief or even shock. The griever
might gravitate towards emotions of anger or anguish.
Pain of their loss might even immobilize a person for a
Depending on the individual beliefs, life experiences,
religion, and the type of loss they are grieving can
affect the grieving process of each stage. But
basically, there are five stages of grieving a person
Bargaining or Making Deals
Not all people will experience every stage, and in fact,
some might experience one stage or another more than
once. Emotions become a scary roller coaster ride during
times of grief. Some rides will last longer than others,
and some might take us for several spins.
Regardless of what type grief and/or loss someone faces,
there are some basic things you can do to alleviate
their pain, with both parties feeling better about the
situation and themselves. And remember, whether you
yourself are going through this grief/loss or you are
trying to console someone else, the following pointers
will make the process of healing less painful, less
confusing, and actually can improve your own coping
skills in the future:
Never tell someone how long it 'usually' takes or 'when'
they will start feeling better. This actually prolongs
the healing process and can cause more harm then good by
making the person feel that they are not normal.
Never tell someone they should try to stop thinking
about the loss. This in effect tells the person you
don't wish to hear, know or even care about their loss.
Ask them to tell you about some of their good memories
and engage them.
Tell them your good memories, when appropriate or asked.
Many times I have heard responses like, "There's just so
many I don't know where to start" or else "You know how
s/he was, I don't need to tell you."
Always allow the grief stricken person to lead the
conversation and truly listen to the words.
Most of the time when a person asks "is this normal?" it
is not a question, but a need for confirmation and
validation of what they feel. This should never be
addressed with 'tips' or 'examples' of what you think is
normal. Instead, your answer should be a question of
what do THEY think.
Be available when you are needed, not when it is
convenient for you.
Allow a person space when needed, but at the same time
offer other means to keep them busy and focused on
maintaining balance in their daily lives.
Allow the griever to vent their emotions without
judgment or making it personal against you. While you
should not feel obligated to actions of an abusive
nature, anger is a natural feeling during times of grief
that is better released than bottled up inside.
Sometimes all that is required of you is listening or
simply being present, so they know they are not alone.
Offer to locate and/or accompany the griever to support
As with anything else in life, there is a fine line
between dealing with grief and becoming consumed by
grief. And while there might be times the actions of the
grief stricken may seem irrational or down right crazy,
unless they display signs of self destruction or a need
to harm others, the most you can do is support them and
avail them to healthier means of coping.
There are signs to watch for however, that the griever
might need some professional assistance with their
grief. How this is handled is extremely important as
well. Suggesting it might ease or assist them through
their healing process, rather than suggesting they need
help in an accusatory manner can make all the difference
in whether they reach out or withdraw within.
Some indicators the griever needs professional help:
Loss of interest in things that were previously
Excessive indulgence or interest in negative activities,
i.e. - overeating, alcohol, drugs, elicit sex, illegal
activity or placing themselves or others in harms way.
Drastic change of appearance - frumpy or unclean,
wrinkled clothes; provocative attire or convent look.
Change in friendships - old [long term] friends
forgotten and/or replaced by new "thrill seekers."
Negative view or lost purpose of living
Excessive sleeping or insomnia
Talks of their own death as a means of relief.
Completely avoids or ignores the loss, tries to act like
event never happened.
Any sudden obsession or preoccupation of a fatalistic
Any activity outside of their usual mannerism can be an
It is not always easy to determine when a person crosses
that line of what is considered acceptable under the
circumstances, but if you have any concerns what-so-ever
it is better to err on the side of prevention. This
might be a time to consider talking with others who are
most familiar with the griever [family members] to
monitor the situation and come up with an intervention
There are no fast and hard rules when it comes to
grieving, each person handles these events differently.
But, when it starts interfering with their daily lives
or the daily lives of their loved ones, it's time for
intervention. And remember, although you don't want to
project onto others, recalling your own past experience
can sometimes guide you with the best course of action.
What helped you survive your own grieving process or
what actually made you feel worse?
Finding activities or a focus of interest can improve
your emotional state. Depending on your loss, sometimes
joining an organization that promotes awareness of the
loss you suffer can be an instrument toward healing.
Joining groups of same, like experiences will help the
healing process by sharing experiences with others going
through the very loss you are experiencing.
The most important thing to remember when all is said
and done -- focus on the positives in your life. And
when you start questioning your purpose for being or the
point to life, just remember all those who love you,
depend on you, and would be lost without you. Then go
share the love... and maybe even hug a total stranger.
You just might be surprised what a positive effect it
has on your emotions, mental state and even your healing