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5 Things to Remember About Your Grieving Friends

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Friend grief Via Pexels

I've read plenty of articles on the topic of how best to support grieving friends, as well as what to expect as a person who is facing grief over the loss of someone. For those of you not in the loop of my personal life, I recently lost one of my best friends to a tragic and preventable accident, which occurred at the lab where she worked. You can read the details about her death here, can take action here, and if you'd like to read about my own personal struggle with grief and loss, well, I have a couple of those posts, as well.

Part of my process with grieving right now involves a certain amount of sharing the "practical" side of my experience with others. That means letting others know about what has been most beneficial to my well being, what helped me immediately after my friend's death, and what has helped me now (it is 5 months today, and I still feel frequent pangs of depression, anger and loss). Here is a list of 5 things that are helpful to know when your friend is going through a difficult time. Please circulate it to others, and feel free to add your own experiences and advice in the comments section.

1. Grief isn't linear. It's complicated. The stages of grief that are often part of the narrative of recovering from loss has its place in the way we may understand bereavement. But it is by no means a model that applies to everyone, particularly in circumstances of complicated or particularly traumatic grief (eg. losing a child, tragic or sudden death). Even in the cases of death we may see coming, we may not react in ways that others expect.

When Sheri died, I expected to be in a long stage of denial, followed by anger, then sadness, etc. This was not the case.

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EmpowHER Guest

Great article! It is so true that grief is very complicated. And often people who have lost close friends feel quite awkward since they weren't "related", but the grief is just as real. Thanks for writing!

Kim Carolan

July 9, 2009 - 2:35pm
EmpowHER Guest

On the subject of loss, allow me to remind everyone that, yes, facing the loss of a loved one is heartbreaking.

Loving is all-encompassing; love took most of our emotional energy as we embraced our spouse or partner. We cared that they were fulfilled and well. We wanted to protect them and make them happy. We were devoted, so much so, that losing this loved one, feels crippling. And so, when they are gone, we need to learn how to transform this energy into something positive. Not a "substitute," but a conversion, from a "we" to an "I".

During this important journey, the first idea we need to fully embrace is that you, the mourner, have rights. What are they?

Bill of Rights

We have the right to express our grieving in our own way.

We have the right to know that grieving is slow, hard work and to move through it at our own pace.

We have the right to express our feelings about grief and to explore them.

We have the right to forgive ourselves for the things we think we “should” have done or “might” have done and realize that what we did in that moment of time was based on the information at hand and that we did the best that we could with the knowledge we had.

We have the right to be ourselves and to recognize our strengths and our limitations.

We have the right to participate actively in our mourning, to remember the past with fond memories and to allow ourselves to enjoy our lives again.

We have the right to move forward and to speak of our pain, whether that makes people uncomfortable or not.

We have the right to go back and forth in our grieving; some days making progress and other days slipping back.

We have a right to express our emotions and to have others bear witness to our story.

We have the right to believe that we will have a whole life again!

Gloria Lintermans, co-author with Marilyn Stolzman, Ph.D., L.M.F.T., THE HEALING POWER OF GRIEF: Transcending the Loss of a Spouse to Life and Laughter, (Sourcebooks, Inc.) ISBN: 1-932783-48-2.

July 8, 2009 - 11:51am

I tend not to grieve openly. There are times I have questioned myself whether I'm really feeling the loss or just don't allow myself to feel it. Everyone handles grief differently, I supposed, even though we all share some common experiences.

July 7, 2009 - 5:25pm
EmpowHER Guest

I'm so sorry for your loss Nina and what you're saying about grief is so true -- it's complicated. I've been there myself and have found that when I think I've reached a milestone, I feel the undertows of new triggers. The good news is that sometimes the triggers conjure long-forgotten memories and it's interesting how someone can almost become a different person to us after their gone. Hang in there Nina and thank you for your clear-headed tips -- a feat after loss.

July 7, 2009 - 5:07pm
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