I have experienced grief, and know people who have experienced grief. Some are still grieving. And really, so am I on some days. Grief is weird.
Let me start by saying that while grief is a universal experience, it is not experienced universally. What I mean is that no two people will grieve the same way, even in the same situation. We are not cookie cutters and our story is our story; no one else may write or edit it. Please hear the freedom in these words, no one can tell you how to grieve. And also please hear the caution in these words, resist the temptation to tell someone else how to grieve.
So, what then? How do we 'grieve well'? The practice of condoling with folks has largely been lost, so let's revisit that concept.
The definition of condole is simply to "express sympathy for (someone), to grieve with". (“Thank you, Siri” and Google.) I don't think this means to attempt to distract or 'cheer up' someone who is experiencing loss. Rather, just be there, really be there; enter into their grief with them. (This touches on the concept of 'holding space', another important way to experience life together; I'll dive into that in another post!) Silence has become a somewhat uncomfortable thing in our culture, but sometimes we can help most by just being quiet and being there. Often silence and presence naturally bring comfort, communicating that you are there for the person, sharing their sadness. Practice silence until you are more comfortable with it. No, really, practice it! Perhaps we would all benefit from the practice of 'stillness', and from embracing the sorrow that naturally accompanies loss rather than trying to avoid it. After all, wouldn't it truly be sadder if we weren't sad when we experience grief and loss?
by Maureen Willis, RN, BSN, CCM, PAC Consultant