I just had a lively discussion with some people about grieving and some of the awful platitudes we’ve gotten. “Everything happens for a reason” and “It’ll be okay” being the two that seemed to trigger the most scarlet-eyed anger. And that got me thinking, when Dustin died, what did I need and want the most from those around me?
Here’s my list:
- Say you’re sorry. If you don’t have experience of your own with traumatic loss, stop there.
- Don’t try to explain it or put it into perspective. That will only come with time, and in the beginning, perspective is the last thing a grieving person is capable of seeing.
- Don’t tell them their lost loved one is better off now. That is cold damn comfort when your heart’s just been ripped out. Let them come to that conclusion on their own.
- If you offer help, mean it. Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep. If you say he or she can call anytime, be prepared for that to mean 3 a.m.
- Don’t push them to get better faster-it doesn’t work that way.
- Don’t offer religion unless you’re damn sure that person shares your views.
- Don’t offer to listen if you’re going to get exhausted by it-certain grieving people need to talk a LOT, and will repeat themselves quite a bit. If that isn’t your thing, don’t offer.
- Be prepared for the process to take a hell of a lot longer than you think it should.
- When they get angry (and they will), don’t take it personally. If they need to throw things, hit up Goodwill for some old plates and let them break every damn one.
- Educate yourself on the grieving process, and how it changes depending on the type of loss and the level of trauma associated with it.
- Be prepared for the anniversaries (birthdays, date of death, date of burial, installation of the headstone, holidays, marriage/dating anniversaries) to be absolutely awful.
- Be patient. Let me say that again: Be patient.
It will get better. Eventually. Grief happens on its own timeline, not anyone else’s. Keep in mind that in your zeal to help, you could be causing more harm than good, so try to keep the grief-stricken person first in your thoughts. Sometimes a person may need professional help and you may not know how to broach that subject; I would contact a local grief support group or center to get advice on how to proceed.
*I do not expect this is the end of the list. This was a spur-of-the-moment post, so I will be adding to it as I’ve had time to consider the issue.