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How to Support Someone Who is Grieving

by | Sarah's Corner

I will let you be yourself. What does this really mean? When I wrote this for the Grief Supporters Manual I thought it was important because as grievers it takes an incredible amount of energy to be yourself, let alone the additional energy of being “not” yourself. For me, some days, being myself was being tearful or sad or even overly pessimistic.

What does “be yourself” mean when you’re grieving?

People tell us to “be ourselves” all the time, but what does that really mean? What does it mean when you’re grieving? Being yourself means setting aside fear of rejection, opening up to the idea that the world will keep spinning if you haven’t shape-shifted into a different version of yourself to accommodate the needs of others. In grief, this is especially enticing as the level of discomfort from supporters often implicates a griever’s ability to “be themselves”.

The Grief Supporters Manual

In the Supporters Manual, I am challenging the supporter to allow the discomfort of grief to be second to the importance of “being yourself”. The thing about grief is that you’re learning the new version of yourself. The person you were the day before the loss has died, and this new version is still forming. Learning to live without a parent or a child is especially strict in this quest, as we (the griever) have never lived without this parent and we never thought we’d live without our beloved child. In order to “be yourself” there must be an acknowledgment of the person we once were, that there has been a dramatic change and the new version is still emerging. The freedom to emerge that can be offered with permission from a supporter is key and is a gift. 

Your Guide for Compassionate & Support in Grief

Let you or your loved ones know that you are there to support them in a way that is helpful and meaningful.

As a supporter to verbalize the permission to the griever, that they can be themselves, that you know this is still evolving and that uncertainty is ok can be enlightening for both griever and supporter. 

So many times, grievers are exhausted in their pursuit to keep “it” in, to hold the doors of their grief closed with all their might, mostly for fear of what might happen to them and their relationships. I think one of the questions that reveal this learning curve is “how are you?”…such a trite and conditioned question.

The griever might be compelled to say “fine” as we all have so many times, even in the face of despair. However, what I have found is that there is an internal dialogue occurring and it goes something like this “what do you mean how am I? I am awful, I am sad, I am struggling and weak.”

This agreement on the Supporters Manual says to the griever – answer honestly, and don’t worry about me. Ultimately, it says “I am your supporter and I want to know the truth”.

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