Learn how to support a griever when you have no idea what to do or say to make the pain go away. Hint: It’s not what you think.
I recently talked to a griever who felt like there was no space for her pain. She lost a loved one, and on his birthday, her friends took it upon themselves to throw a birthday party – a celebration.
Now that might have been the right thing to do for another griever, but it did not make this griever feel better. Instead, it made her feel like she had to put on a happy face when all she wanted to do was show the true face of her pain that day.
You see, no one asked her how she wanted to grieve on that special day.
Instead, the forced celebration felt like a message: Your grief is not wanted, and your sadness is not permitted here.
There are moments when a griever doesn’t want to avoid or distract from the pain. There are moments when, as grievers, we need to honor the pain. That can do more to support the griever than anything else.
How do you support a griever? It’s different for everyone – but you can start here.
Distraction Doesn’t Work
Non-grievers tend to use distraction to try to mitigate or briefly lessen the pain of a griever. They try to create a momentary experience where you’re outside of that pain.
They will use events as distraction, suggesting you watch a happy movie or get out of the house or try an old hobby again. They may even suggest you “not talk about that anymore” if they think you’re dwelling on the pain.
The thing non-grievers can’t understand is: We cannot escape the pain. The grieving never escape their grief. It’s a reality we live with every minute of every day, until we do the work to release that pain – instead of running from it.
Honor the Griever
The only thing that softens the pain is sitting in the presence of it. The pain is there to guide us through this journey. By sitting with it, and honoring it, we can learn things about our own grieving experience that leads toward true healing.
It’s inside of those moments of being present with pain that we find we can become released from it. We find the meaning, growth and gratitude we’re meant to gain in order to move through this experience and come out the other side of it.
When we sit with the pain, that’s when it lifts. We have a moment when we can breathe easier. Hope starts to infuse each breath, and we’ve found the strength to transform the pain into something that supports us instead of debilitates us.
As well meaning as non-grievers are when they offer to distract from the pain, the better option is to simply be present as the griever sits with their own pain. Don’t make them go through it alone. Simply be there as they face it.
Witness the grieving as they grieve. Hold space for their pain. It’s the greatest gift a non-griever can give.
Now, it’s important to remember that every griever is different. Some grievers may want and need moments of reprieve, of distraction. Some grievers may want a friend to encourage them toward a hobby or creative outlet they used to love. I’m not saying there’s no place for moments of distraction.
I simply encourage non-grievers to ask permission.
Say: “Do you need to get your mind off it? Can I suggest we do this?”
But then follow it up with an offer to be present no matter what the griever needs. For example, you could say: “Or we could just sit here. I’m here for whatever you need right now. We don’t even have to do anything.”
Ask the griever what they need, and be prepared to follow their lead. When a griever shows the true face of their pain, it’s deeply personal. It’s an extremely vulnerable experience. All non-grievers have to do is sit beside that experience, withholding judgement and sharing love.
Let them know their pain is welcome.
The Bottom Line
Pain is not something people ever run toward. When I lost my son, I was the living example of every mother’s worst nightmare. Most people did not want to sit with me in that pain.
Instead, they want to divert, avoid, distract – often because they don’t know what to do or say. Their fear is that they will upset the person by saying or doing the wrong thing.
So here’s my solution: Simply ask permission. Ask for feedback. Just don’t leave them alone in their pain by sending the message that it’s not welcome.
Share With Us!
How have loved ones supported you along your grieving journey? What helped you the most?
Share with us! We would love to know!
Your story is so important.
The A.R.T. of Healing is a membership, resource and community for mothers who are moving through the pain of losing a child. Conversations and materials will focus on the three main shifts that occur once you’ve reached the point of acceptance.
When you have accepted that your reality is now different, and you’re ready to find hope and happiness again, then this membership will provide a creative framework for your healing journey – as well as the community to support you along the way.
It includes activities, journal prompts, meditations, rituals, affirmations, a 7-part video series of healing principles and exercises and more – all to support you as you transform from a life of loss to feeling spiritually whole and emotionally free.
Learn more here: https://melissahull.com/membership/.