If I were going to do a step by step on how to approach grief, my first step would be to state very clearly, in every conversation that contains the subject to which you are grieving over, that you are not asking for “help” or “advice” as a preemptive strike against someone offering anything that could even remotely come off like counsel.
I know I’ve written before that when people ask me what they should do for a new widow or someone who is grieving, I say “just be there.” Don’t talk, don’t advise, don’t manage, don’t do anything you don’t normally do. Just be with them. Listen when they talk, nod your head, but offer no unsolicited advice or commentary. Only speak to them when implicitly asked for: I mean they ask you “What do you think?”or “Say something!” Allow the grieving person to be irrational, weepy, lash out emotionally, etc. and just be there for moral support.
Listening may be the hardest thing to do on the planet. A lack of communication is probably the number one reason things have broken down between political parties, genders, races and age groups. It’s definitely a major source of struggle in marriage and in families. Maybe this is what makes God such a good companion for those who are grieving. Prayers are seldom answered quickly and the repeated pleas to our Father gives us time and space to verbalize our problems.
God has been a psychoanalyst millennia before the term existed.
There is a very good balance that God actually instituted into the world, it’s called family and friends. Families usually have no filters, because they “know” you and have less tolerance to empathize unless they have been the same place you have been (my sister was never a tomboy, but my brothers played baseball under the coaching of my father). Aunts and uncles are always full of advice because your parents have already complained to them (most likely). My daughter drove me insane with her constant positivity trying to get me not to cry after Sam passed, God bless her, and who could blame a child for wanting their parent to be happy so they wouldn’t also be depressed? So I give a free pass to all family to give unsolicited advice or counsel. Friends, however are a different animal all together, and they play a very important role in grieving and have to walk a fine line in the listening and advising.
George Bernard Shaw said: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place,” which is, actually is, a big problem between men and women. We are always assuming we understood what was just said, even if it seemed pretty clear, only to discover later that our significant other meant something completely different. This is why my advice remains to simply listen and be there. Your presence is often enough, but the ear that listens, like God during a prayer, is an important thing for people to work out their fear, grief, desires and needs.
And that’s all that I have to say about grief this week and it’s something I pretty certain about, so I can’t say I don’t know what to tell you.
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