There’s a lot of great articles out there about how to help a loved one through grief…unfortunately they will only be found by the friends and family who search for them.
I think it’s important to remember, that while there’s a lot of people who want to help and be supportive, a loved one’s grief can make them feel so helpless they are practically paralyzed by it. Meaning the very helpful advice that’s out there may never actually make it to them. Perhaps because they assume it’s too far out of their power to help.
That’s why when it comes to getting the grief support that you want, it may mean having to tell others what you need. I say this to a lot to grievers and I’m often met with at least some resistance. “Me?”, a griever may ask, “I have to help other people help me?”.
The answer is yes…sort of.
It may sound like a lot of work and, trust me, I understand the desire we all have for people to know what we need without having to ask. But think of it like this:
We go to a hairdresser for a haircut. We sit down in the chair and say nothing, hoping that he or she can guess what we need and what outcome we’re hoping for. Very few of us would ever consider doing that and it could be even harder still to find a stylist willing to take the chance. What if I do it wrong? The stylist may wonder. What if it makes things worse? And even if we could find the hairdresser who would just cut and style without any say from us…what are the odds that it would turn out to be what we want or need?
In the same way, good grief support does not happen without your input. It’s as simple as that.
And forgive me, I never want to oversimplify because nothing, and I mean NOTHING, about loss could ever be described as simple.
At the same time, our active participation in getting the help and support we need will absolutely make all the difference in the end. In the fragile state of grief it can be hard to articulate everything we’re feeling, and we may not even know where to begin when trying to convey what kind of help we need.
So consider the following. It’s a template letter that outlines the feelings that many grievers would like to express to those around them. While it’s generic enough to apply to most, there is room to personalize it in a way that works for you. And if nothing else, perhaps it can act as a prompt to get a conversation going:
I’m writing because I need you to better understand this loss, my grief, and all that has changed since it happened.
You have always known me as a person who is _______________ (think of adjectives here: strong, funny, easy-going, optimistic…include as many as you like).
I’m sure you’ve seen the change in me, and I know I certainly don’t feel like that same person right now. While every day of grief is different, most of the time I’d say I’m feeling ________________ (exhausted, scared, angry, helpless, alone…again include as many descriptive words that you can think of).
This loss has changed everything. I have lost the life I thought I would have and a future that I hoped would be. I have lost every part of who I am and who I used to be. It has changed every minute and every hour and every part of my routine. I think about it all day and pretty much all night too.
I am just not myself right now. I say “right now” because I hope to be able to show you a glimpse of who I was again at some point, but there is no going back to normal. The me you knew before is gone and in some ways I guess we all have to mourn that loss as much as any other.
But I am __________________ (hopeful, confident, filled with faith or belief…try and think of at least one positive phrase or word here) that with your love and support I will survive this.
I may not feel as strong a person as I once was, and I’m asking for your patience, because I think this pain will be with me for a very long time. In many ways I will carry it forever. In return, and as best I am able, I will also try to be patient as I recognize that you too are adjusting to the changes you see in me.
More than anything I’m inviting a conversation between us. You can ask me anything, at anytime. Please don’t be afraid to make me sad, and don’t be fooled into thinking that if I look “okay” and that if I’m back to work or at a party or returning to some kind of routine that I’m “not thinking about it”. I’m always thinking about it.
It helps me to know you are thinking about it too. I want to hear ________________’s name. I want to know that you miss him/her too. I don’t want this loss to be forgotten.
You don’t know how much this will mean to me and how much it will help me to feel less alone…
Remember, it’s a template, and a guide. It’s a place to start, and certainly you can add, change or delete whatever you need and whatever you don’t. Send it out to everyone you know or just share it with the person or people you want on this journey with you. Or use it as a way to get a conversation going. Anything will help.
Any time we are opening up and inviting honest communication, everyone benefits. Especially the griever who needs help the most.
Every single one of us can benefit from more help and support and for no one is that more true than the griever.
So whether you’re looking for support or more support, remember that you can always find it here at: www.griefincommon.com.
*If you would like a copy of this template sent to your inbox, simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you and get you the help you need!