DEALING WITH GRIEF: what helps?

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May 4, 2020



Nothing. That’s certainly how I feel when it first hits, especially the death of a close friend or loved one. The desolation and loss seem unbearable, the environment around me lonesome and gray.

Additional factors, such as the COVID pandemic or the loss of a job, aggravate the condition. Still “time heals all wounds” the anonymous, mysterious “they” say. . .probably some prehistoric caveman. This statement makes no difference when you’re grieving, but later can make sense.

Still HOW you grieve, the steps you take, can make a difference. A friend of mine recently lost a grandchild. For months she isolated herself from the world. None of her friends knew what was wrong and spent a long time asking one another if they’d seen or heard from her. By the time they found out, it was too late to offer much in the way of any sympathy.

One of our society’s shortcomings, I believe, is that we lack rituals and observances to help us through bad times. Funerals are becoming smaller and less frequent, those thinking about death have strong opinions about not want fuss and formalities. Whereas a century ago, you might wear black or drape a black ribbon over your door, these customs are uncommon. In those distant times, your connections knew the routines. Send flowers or at least a sympathy card, bring a casserole to the bereaved’s house, inquire of family members after the death how they were doing, or mention that you, too, miss the deceased.

This doesn’t mean that grief is any easier for contemporary people to handle. I have a number of acquaintances who mention the lack of inquiries from their own circles, along with just how hurtful it is to have their loss ignored, as if the deceased never existed, never counted, never left a mark.

“I didn’t know what to say or do” is often the rejoinder. Sorry, I just don’t buy that. If friends matter, and to me they’re the only thing that does in the end, they deserve our acknowledgment of their pain and loss. Those actions may be even more important to grievers who isolate themselves or try to stiffen their upper lips until they’re paralyzed. Grief is an emotion we’ll all experience at some point. The only way to eventually become a whole functioning adult again is to go through it. Surely the only means to a kinder society is to be kinder ourselves.

 

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