Grief. It is something that all of us will experience at some point in our life, and probably many times over. It is an innately human experience and a common bond that can bring us closer together than most things in life.
That doesn't mean that it's easy to talk about. In fact, grief is one of the hardest things to talk about that there is. It is almost as common to want to support a grieving friend, but to have no idea what to say.
Which is completely understandable. Grief comes from tragic happenings and is the result for turbulent and sad moments in our lives. As time goes on, though, we learn more and more about grief. And through learning about it, we can better understand how to support our friends and loved ones going through it.
How to Start a Conversation
One of the reasons it feels so hard to bring up grief or to talk with someone who has just lost a loved one is because loss touches on our rawest of emotions. When we talk to someone in mourning, we recognize that while also skirting around the topic in hopes that it'll somehow dampen the pain. This is not true.
The person grieving has certainly not forgotten it, nor will they for a long time. That's why this is a great conversation starter:
"Would you like to talk about it, or talk about anything but that?"
It is possible that your friend or loved one needs someone to talk through their emotions. It is also possible that they would rather keep their mind off what had just happened by talking about something else. Another great conversation started is:
"I'm here for you, whether you need me to listen or anything else."
Sometimes, people who are grieving have no interest in talking. That doesn't necessarily mean that they don't want people around them. Oftentimes, grieving friends or loved ones will want to be surrounded by the people they love, even if it is without conversation.
Making sure that a grieving friend or loved one knows that nothing is expected of them soon can also be hugely beneficial. By letting them know that you are only a phone call away for anything, whether it is to talk or to come over with a meal, grief carries enough stress on its own. Relieving as much of that stress as possible is beyond helpful to those grieving.
What Does Grief Feel Like?
There is a difference between grief and mourning. The latter is the outward expression of our grief. It is the memorials we make for our loved ones. The funerals we hold. The stories we tell preserve their memory.
Grief is the inward expression of our feelings toward loss. These feelings are deep, and they are complicated. Any one of these could describe grief:
- A sense of loss
Grief is a difficult thing to process. It could be one or all the above feelings happening at once or at different times. When you experience grief, it's best to have a support system around you.
While friends and loved ones are a great support system, you might want to consider looking into local grief support groups. Community grief support can give you that extra leg to stand on when times are toughest.
It's also best to remember that grief doesn't just magically go away. It is a process, and once you experience it, it is something you will have with you for the rest of your life.
Here's a good way to think about it. Imagine that in the back of your head there is a button that triggers grief. When you first experience grief, there is a large ball that hits that button, and it is so large that it keeps hitting that button. As time goes on, that ball shrinks, but every now and then it still hits that button.
You'll never know when and you'll never know why the ball hits the button, but as time goes on, the moments in between grieving will get longer and longer.
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