Twelve years? It’s really been 12 years since Brian died? To me, that is so confusing. In one respect it seems like 12 days, and in another respect, it seems like 24 years. It’s hard to wrap my head around it. In thinking back over the last 12 years, I realized that I have learned a whole lot about grief and loss. Melissa always likes me to do a guest post now and then, so I thought this time I would share some of what I have learned about helping the grieving since my husband died.
First of all, I learned that grief is a very personal thing. People always try to quantify grief…
“Oh, her father was old, so her grief.”
“Yours isn’t as bad as mine.”
“No one has had a loss as bad as mine.”
I have learned that you can’t do this. Everyone’s grief is the worst because it’s theirs! Everyone’s grief has to be acknowledged and respected. Grieving people need loving kindness and they need to hear their loved ones name, over and over. They may need to tell the story of the death, over and over too. They need, above all else, someone who can just listen, not offer advice or platitudes. And, they NEVER need to hear, “Oh, he’s in a better place.” Seriously, you are going to tell someone that and think that it will make everything all better? Keep your views of the afterlife to yourself and help the grieving person right here, right now, in this life.
And that brings me to another one of my pet peeves of trying to help a grieving person, when someone says, “Oh, you are so strong, I could never survive this.” Well, guess what? You could…and, I wasn’t strong all the time, trust me. I was as frail as feather in the wind, but 7 years (yes, 7 years!) of weekly counseling made me strong enough to go on. But, for those 7 years, I was not strong, I was on the edge the whole time. And, when you are on the edge, hearing how strong you are is extremely upsetting and makes you wonder why you are not stronger. That, in turn, makes you feel even weaker.
Never, never judge a suicide. I had people tell me that it’s too bad that Brian wouldn’t go to Heaven. Really, you know this for a fact? C’mon, think before you say something like that. Comments like that haunted me for months after Brian’s death. Also, never ask a suicide survivor how the person died. It is not conversation that rolls easily off the tongue. It’s personal, especially for those of us who found the body. If the person trusts you enough to share, they will.
That’s enough negative comments. Here are things that truly helped me and that I will be forever grateful for…
*Sitting quietly with me until I could speak
*Taking me out of the house, leaving me alone when I needed it
*Having others bring up Brian’s name
*When people would remember Brian with me
Those are truly the things that got me through. I miss my husband every day, but today, I remember his life — and the life we had together.