Monday, December 28, 2015

In Grief: How Much Can One Person Take?

[Reviewed and updated July 24, 2022]

The sensitive person grants the sufferer the dignity of her own process. She lets the sufferer define the meaning of what is going on. She just sits simply through the nights of pain and darkness, being practical, human, simple, and direct.  ~ David Brooks

A reader writes: Just how much can one person be expected to take? Just how many deaths in one’s close family can one be expected to take? Just when you think things have slowed back to some kind of normality, wham! It lands right back in your face, landing like some unseen weight on your chest. 
          Comments from well meaning people do not make it any easier. A guy says to me, “Hi there … anybody die this week?” I say, “Nope.” He says “Thank god… good week in your life! Lol” I do not particularly find that amusing nor remotely caring. Do we as grieving people have to refrain from going near people for fear of putting them in unease?
          I was told people won't come near me because they don't know what to say. I do not know which is worse—the being ignored as if I don’t exist or the thoughtless comments. I am really getting to the stage where I really do not know where to turn or what to do with myself.

My response: Surely one of the most painful aspects of losing a loved one to death is that somehow, on top of all our grief, we must put up with all the insensitive comments and empty platitudes we may hear from friends, relatives and others who think that they are helping us.

If they don’t know what to say, those we encounter may talk about the weather or some other mundane topic—anything except to discover how we’re doing, how we are coping and what they might offer to support us. Those who are unable to face us may avoid us altogether, as if we no longer exist for them.

Sometimes people say things out of ignorance and inexperience, and we are left feeling angry, frustrated, disgusted and hurt. Stunned with shock and disbelief, we think to ourselves, “How could they say such an awful thing? Don’t they know how much it hurts?” The answer is simply that no, they don’t know, because they haven’t been where we are and they haven’t walked in our shoes.

We cannot control the words and actions of others, but we can control where we turn for comfort and support. We can choose to seek out and be among the most supportive people we can find. One advantage to coming to an online support group like ours is that you will find yourself with people who DO know how much it hurts, because we all are hurting, too. In this place of understanding, caring and support, you are among others who are on the same journey, walking along the same path, grieving losses of our own and trying to find our own way.

What we say to one another in our grief forums is this: We are here, all the time. We care. We want to learn more of what you think and what you are experiencing. We will not pass judgments. We will listen as you talk about your loved one. If you don't care to share, you are welcome just to read what others have to say. We will cry with you in your sorrow and laugh with you as you recall the good memories. We won’t tell you to hurry up, to get a grip and pull yourself together, to let go and get on with your life. We won’t mind how long you stay or how long you need to be here.

When you don't know where to turn or what to do with yourself, know this: The members on our site will be there for you just as you will be there for us, as we all do what we can to help each other bear our grief and ease our collective burdens. Please consider joining us, and know that you will be welcomed with open arms and caring hearts.

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