How many of you have ever gotten into a fight with someone? Perhaps you’ve had a disagreement with a spouse, family member, or best friend.
If we are being honest, we all have! BUT… have you ever been in the middle of an argument when you stop, pause, look at the other person in total confusion and whisper, “Hey real quick, can you remind me what are we fighting about?”
The subject matter has changed so many times you have no idea what the original offense was anymore. So many little issues have been building, and building, and building, because they never got dealt with when they were small. And now, you are an active volcano spewing everything and anything from your memory bank.
The same goes with grief. Little hurts and losses, combined with big hurts and losses can compound if they are not dealt with, until the grieving person doesn’t even know who or what they are grieving anymore. You just know you are broken, and you cry, and there is not always a tangible reason.
Here are three keys to understanding grief:
1. Understand the onset of any trauma will bring up past hurts and unresolved conflicts.
Sometimes the loss itself can bring up repressed memories, childhood hurts, conflict from broken relationships, self-esteem issues, unresolved past trauma or sins, unspoken words of forgiveness or closure (that may be too late), feelings of regret, and any abuse a person has previously, or is currently experiencing. This leads to a lot of confusion and sometimes displaced emotions because these feelings seem unrelated to the current circumstances. And most often, the grieving person is completely unprepared to know how to deal with these emotions.
2. Understand the fear of the unknown is terrifying.
“How do I even begin to start my life as a widow?”
“Will I ever be able to have children?”
“What if the cancer doesn’t kill me, but the chemo does.”
Two days before my first chemo infusion, I wrote goodbye letters to my husband and children. Not only did I do my best to tell them how much I loved them, but what I wanted for their lives. I was terrified of leaving my family and had to face this fear. Little did I know I would have an anaphylactic response to the chemo and very well could have died. The fear of the unknown can have a powerful grip on someone who is grieving, because their world has been shaken and they do not know how to survive in their new identity.
3. Understand your loved one has no idea how you can help them.
At the onset of our losses, people would ask, “What do you need?”
My response? I would shrug my shoulders and say, “I don’t know!” I was dealing with first time emotions that were new to me, and had no clue what would help ease my pain.
So, our loved ones would say, “Okay, well, call if you need anything!”
And, I would nod along, but did I ever call? Nope! Therefore, in their mind, our loved ones perceived our family didn’t need help because we aren’t asking for anything. But, what they did not always realize was that while we needed something, we didn’t know what that something was!
Therefore, anticipate the needs of people who are grieving. Instead of saying, “What can I do to help?” – offer a tangible solution.
- “Can I bring a meal over on Thursday?”
- “Can my son mow your lawn this weekend?”
- “I’m running to the store, can I pick up some groceries for you?”
- “Can I keep the kids for you on Saturday so you can rest?”
- “We are having a ladies night out this weekend and already have child care taken care of. Will you come with us?”
Q. Tell me. What do you wish people would understand about grief? Please leave a comment below.