What’s the Deal With Grief?
*Though this post is written about grief in general, it is especially relevant right now as our Chicago community continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. If you or someone you know is having a difficult time coping with losses due to COVID-19, please consider making an appointment to meet with one of our therapists.
Do you feel lost when someone you know is grieving?
Grief can be a very painful experience. People often think that grief is only related to death, but grief is actually a very normal response to many different types of losses. Whether it’s the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage, a loss of a friendship, the termination of a job – or even changes due to a significant event like what we’ve experienced with coronavirus – grief can be a difficult and lonely journey not only for those experiencing it but for their friends and family, too.
Truthfully, we don’t seem to manage grief very well in our society. Most of us are not taught how to handle our own grief, much less how to be there for others that are grieving.
When there is a person who has experienced a significant loss, you might be tempted to offer *helpful* statements like:
- Everything happens for a reason.
- I know exactly how you feel [Insert their related experience here that totally does not feel the same to you].
- At least you got to _______.
While well-intended, statements like these aren’t actually that helpful. In fact, sometimes they can actually unintentionally hurt the person who is grieving. No one wants to hear how your grandma’s sister had the same type of disease in the midst of grieving. Telling your story takes away from the other person’s experience. Telling them there is a reason or “at least you got to _____” may create further pain and frustration. All of these minimize someone’s experience.
So if that’s not helpful, what is?
Grief experts, David Kessler and Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, suggest some of these options:
- I’m so sorry for your loss.
- I don’t know how you feel, but I’m here for you.
- Don’t say anything- just sit and be present with the person.
In addition to knowing what to say, there are other ways you can show your support, too, like:
- Show up for them. Call, do something helpful, stop by with coffee.
- Don’t skirt the issue. If your friend/family member/colleague is hurting, check in with them. If someone has passed away, use their loved one’s name. Don’t let grief be the elephant in the room.
- Ask them how they are and don’t tell them what to do. They are hurting. Be supportive and take time to listen to them.
- Don’t rush their grief. Grief is an internal process related to how we feel about a loss. No one gets to determine how long is appropriate to grieve. In fact, we may always grieve (though the pain will not always be so intense).
You can also check out this list for other helpful ways to support someone through grief.
Grief will always be a part of life, just as loss is. Maybe we can try to make it a little easier for one another through thoughtfulness and intentionality. Try considering some of these ideas to be there for your loved ones, especially during the pandemic.
If you or a loved one are struggling with grief, consider scheduling a time to come in and talk with one of our therapists. We’d love to meet you.
Written by: Lincoln Park Therapy Group
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