How to communicate with others what you need while grieving?
I was approached in the hallway by a work colleague one day a few months after Andy died. I could see her walking towards me down the hallway looking at me those sympathetic eyes.
I quickly glanced around to see if I could run away, but there was no place to go. Suddenly, we were face to face and I could see the words rolling off her tongue in slow motion as I cringed with the anticipation of knowing exactly what she was going to ask me. “I haven’t seen you since everything happened. (insert slowmo voice) “Howwwww arrrrrrre youuuuuu?.”
My brain kicked into flight or fight mode and it took everything I could not to run away, but honestly I knew she genuinely wanted to make sure I was doing okay. A million thoughts, as to how I would respond, were swirling through my brain however there was only one that could get me out of this conversation the quickest and least convincing way…
“I’m fine. Everything is fine.”
It seemed to satisfy her for the moment, because afterwards she gave me an empathetic smile knowing I wanted this conversation to end, and proceeded down the hallway. Truth was, everything was NOT fine. I managed to dodge this conversation quickly, and I was lying to myself and her had only amplified the grief as I scurried off to the bathroom to cry.
I knew I couldn’t continue to avoid these interactions I’d be having down the road, so what would I share with them that would allow them to better support me? Better yet, what could someone specifically say or do that would healing for my grief journey?
Well, if there’s one gift God gave me it’s the power of resourcefulness (and Google). As I googled, How a Grieving Person Responds to Questions, I found a great resource at helpguide.org called Help Someone that’s Grieving that answered both of my questions.
Question 1 : What would I share with them that would allow them to better support me?
As a widow, please know that you aren’t responsible for what others say or do, but you are responsible for how they impact your current environment. Therefore, communicating what you need in advance by sharing resources like the one I linked above or others can be an empowering way to educate them, so they can better support you along your journey.
Question 2: What could someone specifically say or do that would healing for my grief journey?
I found the following tips from the helpguide.org article very helpful and added my own insight to help you navigate some of the questions you may get in a more meaningful way.
Tip # 1 – Understand the grieving process
For yourself and others, this can be a critical step on your journey. If this is the first time a loved one has died, you likely may not know what’s “normal” and what’s not. Let me just start by telling you that there’s a million different ways to be normal. You are human and your life was uniquely designed for YOU. Having the reassurance from loved ones that however you are grieving is okay can be a healing part of your journey. Also, it is important to note that grief isn’t linear and comes in waves, so just when you’ve started functioning in life again and allowing yourself again don’t be surprised if a song, holiday, or something else triggers your grief right back up, because moving forward can be equal parts joy and pain.
Tip # 2 – Know what to say to someone that’s grieving
As I mentioned previously, people in your life don’t always know what to say; therefore, you shouldn’t automatically know how to respond. However, there are some things that can be helpful for everyone to remember when having a conversation with you.
When I read the article, I came up with a quick AAA acronym that may be helpful for your loved ones to remember.
Acknowledge the situation and let you talk .
Accept feelings that are coming up for you and be willing to sit with you as they listen.
Ask what they can do for you and offer specific practical help.
Just remember that your widow support team wasn’t handed a manual on how to support you on this journey, so be patient with them and yourself as you navigate the road ahead.
Hi there, I’m Erin.
Transformational Life Coach
I’m serving the widow community by connecting them to resources, life, and each other as they rediscover life after loss. When I’m not coaching, I love to travel and spend time with family and friends. If you’re ready to take the next step on your journey start here!