Monday, September 19, 2016
On The Other Side Of Grief (continued)
This parallel process, between the bereft person and the helping person, is important not only to help the grieving person recover, but also to accommodate and create the inevitable new relationship with the bereft person. Significant loss irrevocably changes people and therefore any and all relationships. So part of the helping process is to accept the changed person and relationship along with their loss.
There is so much to say about loss because the range of emotions and behaviors is so enormous. Much has been written in recent years about the stages of grief that have become part of the common wisdom and seem pretty accurate. However, the mourner
does not experience stages - just feelings. Often these are strange, unfamiliar and very intense feelings that people have spent a lifetime learning to control. So reassurance is one of the first responses anyone can give. It is often helpful for people to at least understand what is happening to them. Then they do not have the added burden of thinking something is wrong with them. What is "wrong," is that they have lost something or someone significant.
It seems important to understand that any encounter with a grieving person is unsatisfying. This is so because neither party can give the other what they want. We do not have the power to give back what has been lost, and the grieving person cannot give us the smile and assurance that our help has made everything all right. The greater the loss, the longer this will be true. However, over time our help does help. It is analogous to applying salve to a wound. The salve will not magically heal, but over time the salve plus the healing power of the body, will at some point heal the wound.