Helping Yourself and Others Grieve

http://kimfredrickson.com/2018/09/05/helping-yourself-and-others-grieve/ ‎

I was recently interviewed by my friend, Brendie Heter about the topic of grief. She asked me,

“When we think about grief, we often relate it to death.  But people can grieve for various reasons. What are some of the less obvious reasons a friend or loved-one can be grieving?”

Grief is essentially the process of going from what was to what is. It’s the process of adjusting to our new normal, who we are and what are life is like now after what or whom we’ve lost. It is essential to both ourselves and our relationships to learn how to grieve life’s losses, disappointments, and tragedies.

Grief starts early

We all begin grieving from the time we are born. We start all nice and safe in the womb; all our needs are met. We’re fed and held without having to ask. Then, we get squished and squeezed and push through a narrow opening into a bright light where someone smacks us on the bottom!

We howl because we’ve come into a harsh environment from a safe one. This is how we start to grieve and this process continues as we grieve over small things, like the top of our ice cream cone falling on the ground, to bigger things like moving, losing a friend, or going through a major crises. For children, every day is filled with small losses – getting a time out, not being picked at recess, or moving to a new school.

Adults grieve too when things don’t turn out the way we hoped – which is every day! We can even feel a tinge of grief when good things happen. For instance, let’s say I’m getting married: I can be simultaneously excited about getting married, nervous about this new direction of my life, sad about giving up some of the freedoms I’ve enjoyed, and greatly anticipate going through life with my new spouse.

Grief is God’s gift to us

Processing grief in healthy ways while being compassionate with myself is the most powerful way I have found to get through the hardships of life. It makes getting through the ups and downs of life so much easier.

Grief is God’s answer to processing loss, pain, and disappointment. You may be afraid of these intense feelings and can’t believe they are good. I know. But they are. God is an expert at grief and transitions, and He completely understands. He doesn’t expect us to have our grief processed within a certain amount of time. He is faithful to love us and our loved ones through difficult times.

Grief is full of ever-changing emotions that includes confusion, sadness, anger, loneliness, angst, anxiety, numbness, and vulnerability. Grief occurs in stages and is experienced uniquely by each person.

Grief helps us feel the emotions, adjust to reality, and eventually adjust to our new normal. When people do not grieve, they may remain stuck in what’s happened to them, become bitter, anxious, or depressed, and withdraw from the good parts of life still available to them.

Learning to grieve through losses, small or large, is what helps you, your children and grandchildren handle the realities of life and continue to grow and thrive. Learning to grieve the small things is what helps us mature in order to grieve the larger things to come.

Helping others grieve

Brendie also asked me, “My friend just experienced a devastating loss.  I’m so worried about saying the WRONG thing…that I don’t say anything.  What do I say?”

Such a good question! Most people feel this way. I’ve been on both sides of this dilemma, probably just like you. I’ve had others not respond to something devastating in my life, and felt like they didn’t care. I’ve also sat with others suffering a devastating loss and didn’t know what to say.

First, take some pressure off yourself. When there is a tragedy there are no perfect words to say that will make your friend or loved one’s loss okay. What does make a difference is knowing that your friends and loved ones feel terrible with you and for you. It helps us not feel so alone and validates what a horrible thing has happened.

Here’s a few things you can say,

“I feel so horrible about what has happened. I have no idea what to say, but know I love you and am praying for you.”

“I want to help, but I don’t know what you need. I can listen, hold you and cry with you, make meals, clean your house, do laundry, or something else. What would help?”

“I’d love to come by and take a walk if you’d like. When is a good time? I’d be happy to pick up groceries, or drive your kids to school.”

You can also send cards, texts, etc. It helps your loved one feel connected and loved after a tragedy which is the one thing that will really help.

Don’t just say, “Let me know if you need something.” That puts too much burden on them to figure it out and call you for help.

Remember, if you don’t know what to say, ASK!!!

I hope what I’ve shared is a help to you to process your own grief as well as respond to the grief of others.

You can watch the webinar with Brendie and I if you’d like. We cover a whole lot more than I shared here.

[WATCH] How to Help a Grieving Friend

I’d love to hear from you!

What jumped out at you from this post? What have others done for you when grieving that has helped? What would it be like to talk to yourself about your grief with compassion?

Please leave a comment below and share with those who could benefit via e-mail or on social media.

11 thoughts on “Helping Yourself and Others Grieve

  1. Excellent message. I had typed a message in response, but I forgot to check the little box before sending it. That has happened several times. Frustrating, to say the least. I will try to respond again later.
    YAL

  2. “Processing grief in healthy ways while being compassionate with myself is the most powerful way I have found to get through the hardships of life. It makes getting through the ups and downs of life so much easier”.

    Thank you for this timely reminder and the truth of this so good. Truly the wisdom to get through life and not become bitter. Appreciate you so much Kim. Praying for your complete healing. Grateful for your ongoing outpouring to help others during your own time of need. What a great example to follow. Love you Bev

    1. I needed this right now Kim.
      My daughter just lost her Dog,she was her friend, her life ,her everything.We gave her Dutchess when she was going through a very difficult time in her life and the puppy saved her. Iknow that some people think that it is silly to grieve ike this over a dog but it’s not.I have to pups of my own and I love them some then I love some humans. I’m so worried about her. I’m praying for my baby girl .
      Thank you for sharing.
      Angela

      1. Dear Angela, Thanks for your response. I’m so sorry to hear about the grief your daughter is experiencing upon the death of Dutchess, her friend. Her grief is so understandable. There is nothing like the bond with a beloved pet who has been a good friend, comforter and companion. I know you are grieving Dutchess’passing too as well as experiencing extreme distress watching your daughter suffer. Grief is painful and cleansing. Sending prayers for you and your daughter.

    2. Hi Bev, Thanks so much for your comment. So glad my post was helpful to you. I think we all have a lot to grieve as we walk through life, and yes, it is a challenge to not become bitter. So appreciate your love and encouragement. Love you too 🙂

  3. Having experience devastating loss over the past two years, you are right on! The best thing I’ve found that others can say is exactly what you suggested, “I have no idea what to say.” Keeping a list of the dumb things people say will give you something to laugh about later (if you’re humor can stand it). Because people don’t know what to say but they think they need to say something, what comes out of their mouth I don’t even think they know … And then it’s said!
    Thank you both for the questions and thoughts. Kim, it’s a joy watching the legacy you are leaving regardless of how God allows your health to be sustained. Love you!

    1. Hi Wes, Thanks so much for your very thoughtful and knowing response. I know you have been through devastating loss which will continue in differing ways. I’m so glad that what I shared was accurate of your experience of what is helpful (or not). So appreciate your understanding that our hearts are good even when we say dumb stuff! Thanks for your encouragement about my continued efforts to share what God has laid on my heart. Heartfelt blessings to you and your family.

  4. I’ve been on both sides of grief,
    like everyone. I’ve suffered through some devastating losses over the years, including two nephews years apart, one hit by a car, the other by a truck. Sometimes, I didn’t need any words. I just needed company. It helped me feel less alone. I aprreciated people understanding I didn’t have the energy to engage. I also appreciated sharing something as simple as a cup of tea that I didn’t have to make. Grief sucks the energy and sometimes feels like walking around in lead boots. More recently, I’ve been through another period of grief. Just a simple text “I’m thinking about you…” or “Just checking in…” has encouraged me. A small simple meal dropped off is nice too. Nothing elaborate because I’ve notuced when grieving, I’m not very hungry. A warm bowl of soup is wonderfully soothing. Thanks Kim for bringing up such an important topic.

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