After great loss, it can be difficult to know what to say to family and friends or to new people you meet. One of the most helpful suggestions I've heard is to have a short sentence or two prepared ahead of time. Here is what I say when someone asks questions. "My husband fought bravely against Major Depression for years. The illness finally overcame him when he grew older, and he ended his life in 2007." It is not easy to understand mental illness and behavior disorders, but more and more people are beginning to realize that these illnesses (and other problems that lead to suicide) do not deserve the stigma and shame that once surrounded them. Unfortunately, more and more people experience depression or anxiety themselves or know someone who does. When I speak openly about my husband, many people share that they, too, lost someone this way.
Remember, your grief is your own. You do not have to answer questions, give details, or talk to anyone if you do not want to. You have the right to grieve in the way that is best for you. Do what makes you feel the best. It's always okay to say you don't feel like talking about it. Some people may mean well, but others are just curious or want to intrude on your grief. True friends will understand and respect your wishes.
The same struggles might apply if you are trying to comfort the bereaved. But Just being there says it all, especially when you continue to offer support as time goes by. Those who are grieving need compassionate listeners who are willing to witness their pain and their healing without judgement. After my husband died, my sister came to my home. The first thing she said was "I don't know exactly how you feel, but I know you are hurting, and I care about you."
Don’t be afraid. Keep trying. At the same time, respect the mourner's need for solitude. Don’t push for getting back to “normal.” Nothing is going to be the same after traumatic loss. A new life must be figured out, constructed. Each person in the same family may grieve differently from the others or may need different things at different times. You don’t have to know exactly what they need. You just have to let them know you think of them and the one they lost.
Love lasts; pain doesn’t. It is often difficult to see that at the beginning, but it is true. And compassion? Compassion isn’t contagious, but it should be.
Way for Hope
My name is Jan McDaniel. I speak grief. I also speak peace and healing. I started A Way for Hope blog and website to house projects I create that might help others who are grieving. The blog has expanded to include guest posts by my dear friends and fellow survivors who wanted to speak hope for others, too.
We understand how difficult losing someone you love is. We know how much it means to hear from others further along on this journey and how it is possible to live a life of happiness and joy even while still remembering and honoring those we love.
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Sample Posts by Topic:
Helping children grieve
Formula for healing
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