Do you know what to say to someone going through a tough time? How can you be there for someone who has lost someone or something precious?
In our society, we sometimes have unspoken expectations for grief. For example, we might think it should be over within about a year, that it roughly follows a few stages and that eventually it’s all done with. The person will ‘get over it’ and ‘move on’ with their life.
Without realising it, we’ve created fixed ideas about how upset people should be and what types of things they should and shouldn’t do when they’re grieving. I know I had all those ideas before my husband died. I’d seen plenty of Hollywood movies and that’s how grieving happened nearly every time.
When you’re actually struck by grief though, all that goes out the window. I couldn’t make my grief fit into any timeframes. I had no idea how I was going to feel that afternoon, let alone next week. And I definitely couldn’t make it stop when I thought it had gone on long enough. If I tried, it just came out some other much more embarrassing way, in the supermarket or while I was at the bank.
I think we can make it easier for everyone – the people who are grieving and the people supporting them – by accepting that grief takes as long as it takes. It doesn’t follow a neat, linear pattern and it won’t stick to a schedule. It’s ok to take the time you need to do the things that work for you to get through it.
People who are grieving don’t always need you to have the answers, because often there aren’t any. A wonderful gift you can give to someone going through a tough time is just be with them, listen and create a space for sharing whatever’s happening for them in that moment.