Grief Support: “I Want You to Know…”

shutterstock_138709043One of the best things about participating in a grief support group is the relief that comes at the realization that, finally, “I’m not alone”. There are others who can relate and who understand.

Knowing that you’re not “crazy”, and that other people have shared the same thoughts, and acted in similar ways. This safe haven where everyone else nods in agreement as you tell your story–what’s happened, where you are now, and as you wonder, what comes next?

With the right group and the right facilitator a grief support group can be one of the safest and most comfortable places to be.

And while I spend so much of my time encouraging people to participate in a group for just that reason there’s a second part of this that’s all very important to ask – what happens when we leave the cozy space of the group?

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Disenfranchised Grief: Stop Judging, Start Accepting

Disenfranchised GriefThere is a term called “Disenfranchised Grief” and it can be used to describe any time a person’s loss is not being validated or substantiated by those closest to them.

This creates a real problem for the griever. Not only do they have to struggle with the loss, but if they feel they have to defend the depths and complexities of their sadness to those around them, they may feel even more isolated, confused and alone.

Though largely unspoken, there are rules in grieving, and judgments being made about how sad we should be and for how long based on a number of factors. They can include the relationship we had with the person who died, their age when they passed, and in what way (sudden vs. expected) they died.

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Dealing With Loss, One “You Should” At A Time

dealing with lossYOU SHOULD READ THIS: (And if you’re dealing with loss, that should be the last time you should listen to anyone telling you what you should do.)

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is a very personal thing. As friends and family try to over support or advice, some grievers can feel overwhelmed.

I believe that, in general, people are well-intentioned. Whether that’s actually true or not, I find one of the most peaceful ways to get along in this world is to assume that no one is actually setting out to hurt me or upset me.

Now I understand that this sort of optimism may not come easily after the loss of a loved one, and that’s okay. Worrying about whether or not other people have good intentions for us may not be on our list of concerns.

But these people (family, friends, neighbors, coworkers) are still a big part of our life. And in the early days of a loss, as they are trying to help us through our grief, they’re going to come armed with an endless supply of “should”s.

Here’s some examples of the “should”s you may have heard or will hear:

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Allowing Grief to Run its Course

grief symptomsImagine you have the flu. A coughing, sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, fever and body aches kind of flu.

You go to the doctor hoping for a prescription to get you out of your misery. Instead, the doctor says there is nothing that can be given – the flu must simply run its course.

I hate when this happens. When I go to the doctor and I’ve paid my copay, I hate leaving there with nothing to show for it but the sickness I walked in with.

I feel this way sometimes in counseling those who are grieving. While I know how important it is for the bereaved to speak, tell their story and be heard, I have also wondered how many times they’ve left thinking that for all our talking, their loved one is still gone, and nothing is going to change that.

So that’s where this flu analogy comes in. Because like a flu that needs to run its course, grief brings with it its own signs and symptoms. Continue reading “Allowing Grief to Run its Course”