I offer these thoughts not as some self proclaimed expert, but rather as someone who has had the unique experience of dealing with the loss of loved ones thrust upon me at a relatively young age.
In junior high school my grandfather passed away, then just shy of high school graduation one of my best friends was killed, and then just a few short years later my father died unexpectedly. I’ve also experienced varying degrees of loss along the way.
First off, I’m not here to compare any loss I’ve experienced to anyone else. That would be both silly, and irresponsible. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the countless and varied stories people have shared with me over the years in the work I do, it’s that when you think you have heard it all, someone else comes along with a story that will top what you’ve heard.
So instead of making comparisons, my life experience has me believing that everyone’s situation is unique, and to that person, in the place they are in the moment it is every bit as difficult as anyone else’s situation.
With that said, here are some ideas that I hope you will find helpful…
Keep in mind that telling someone who is in the midst of dealing with the loss of a loved one that “everything happens for a reason” may not always get quite the positive effect you meant for it to when you say it.
This is a bit of advice geared towards the friend or otherwise well meaning person who is trying to be there for the person who is dealing with their loss and grief. You may very well mean it with the best of intentions, and your own life experience gained over time may very well have proven out that there is truth in the statement. However, the problem comes in in that first, in most cases the person you’re giving that advice to isn’t privy to the same life experiences that you are — and as a result is seeing the situation from an entirely different frame of reference.
Another thing that we often forget when passing along the “everything happens for a reason” bit of advice, when it relates to helping others through some form of personal loss or grief, is that they are not able to see the “lesson” — if in fact there is one.
Here’s what I mean, often, the “lesson” if you choose to call it that is something that reveals itself much, much later in the healing process. Often it happens so gradually that one never picks up on it. Plus, something we often don’t consider is that a person who is deeply missing another human being very likely doesn’t want to entertain the thought of having some major “epiphany” where it is revealed to them that there was some “positive reason” for the person they care so deeply for to have had to go through what they did.
Again, I can’t stress enough that it’s not that you are being ill-meaning when you share what you mean to be helpful words, but instead my hope is that you’ll keep in mind that such a saying, if that person isn’t at that stage in their healing may have the opposite result that you meant for them to have.
So in summary, you may mean well, and that in itself is commendable, but just as if you misspell the word dog, no matter how many times you continue to misspell it, it’s still going to lead you to the incorrect spelling 🙂
Assuming you agree with any of the ideas I’ve shared above, the inevitable question arises, “if that’s true, what in the heck can I say to help someone I care deeply about then?”
A good question indeed. First, and this is offered up strictly from past experience — with the advantage (if you want to call it that) of having years to let the thoughts gel overtime. First, realize that you don’t have to say anything at all. You do have to be there for the person. Keeping in mind that truly being there in whatever capacity a person needs (so long as it isn’t destructive to you or that person) can be incredibly helpful in and of itself.
Secondly, and here I want to speak directly to those who are dealing with the loss of a loved one. Time, while it may not heal you completely, does alter your outlook. When it comes to healing the heart, that amount of time is different for everyone. It’s not about the pain completely subsiding as much as it adjusting. It’s hard to explain, and I’ll fully concede that to the person who is still right in the middle of it what I’m saying may sound like complete B.S. — to which I’m not about to argue the point.
What I’m suggesting isn’t about me being right, or anyone being right, rather it’s simply my observation given over an extended period of time. And like all advice offered, take what resonates with you my friend — and to put it politely, kick what doesn’t to the curb.
In summary I would just say that if you are dealing with loss, you may very well at times feel like curling up in a ball and letting the world pass you by. That is a choice –and I’m not even here to criticize the person who opts to make that choice. I can say though from experience that the opposite of that, and being busy in some activity can be incredibly helpful. If even to divert what you’re feeling, those incredibly hard feelings for even a moment in time can do wonders in helping your heart heal.
Finally, I would offer up a thought I heard some time ago that I believe is worth keeping in mind. It was Mark Victor Hansen who I first heard say, “teach that which you most want to see implemented in your own life”. How that relates to what I’m discussing here is that perhaps being a part of a support group, or tapping into in some way, or reaching out to others who have managed to navigate their own loss and grief can be incredibly helpful.
Again, it’s not as much about finding some “magic pill” that will make things all better, in this idea, the point is to find a sense of hope that just as others have managed to move forward over time, so there is hope for you too. And make no mistake — hope is a powerful thing!
It’s your life, LIVE BIG!
-your thoughts and feedback are always appreciated. If you have any ideas that would be helpful for dealing with grief and loss of a loved one please share them in the comments below.