When a loved one loses a person close to them, we often struggle with what to say in times of grief. We want to fix it. When we have that “fixing” spirit, we are feeding our own needs. When we have a need to “fix” it, that is our own personal way of handling their grief. It is at times uncomfortable for us to see our loved ones in pain. It can be heart wrenching to watch our loved ones hurt and we cannot make it stop.
Often times we say, “if you need me call me” or “let me know if I can help in anyway.” When we ask these questions or make these statements are they really heartfelt and meaningful? Probably. The issue comes into play, when that phone call never comes. We often assume all is well and our help is not warranted. This could be not further from the truth. The reality is the pain is so great at times, they may not have the strength to pick up a phone and call for help. They are not in a place where asking for help is in their vocabulary.
Another common mistake in “fixing” grief, is when we place timelines and parameters on a person’s grief. We tend to rush a person’s grief. We make statements like, “are you still dealing with that”, “I thought you were over that by now.” This is not helpful or comforting. Please find me some research on a timeline that states grief lasts for x amount of time and then you are over it. It’s not true. No one can tell a person how long to grieve. Some deaths are so hard that it may take years for some to process.
Other mistakes in “fixing” grief includes blaming it on God. We say things like, “it must have been their time”, “they are with God now,” or “God must have wanted another angel.” This all may be true in some religions, but does that mean the pain ends at that point? No. Is that comforting? To some, maybe. However, that is still us trying to “fix” it.
Grief is a roller coaster of emotions. Some days are better than others, and some days are so bad that a person cannot get out of bed.
According to Kubler-Ross, there are five stages of grief:
1) Denial -They refuse to believe their loved ones are not on this Earth anymore.
2)Anger –They become angry and they may blame others for this loss. They may sometimes get angry at God and sometimes even the one that has passed away.
3)Bargaining – They attempt to bargain with God or the universe, they may say things like, “I wish it was me”, “I would do anything to bring them back”.
4)Depression - At this stage the individual may begin to recognize that the loss has occurred. They may not feel like moving forward with their life, they may feel deeply saddened by this loss, they may isolate, their eating habits may change, sleeping patterns may change, and other symptoms of depression may exist. Anxiety and fear may also occur at this stage. The fear of living without their love one may be too much to bear.
5) Acceptance- The last and final stage includes acceptance. This stage entails the individual coming to terms with their loss. This does not mean the grief is over, this simply means they have accepted their loved one is not coming back, and they will be okay. This stage will still have ups and downs, but they will be able to begin processing their loss.
The stages of grief are not in any particular sequence. Grief is individual and not cookie cutter. Grief comes at all times and in many ways. There are other grief theories as well. The bottom line is that grief is not something that requires us to “fix” it. There are no quick “fixes” to grief. There are no timelines on grief. Grief is grief and it hurts. It is unfathomable for some to view living on this Earth without their loved ones. That could be mothers, fathers, children, friends, uncles, aunts, grandparents, etc. Only that individual knows what that relationship meant to them. Some healing takes longer than others.
So, to answer the question how do you fix grief? You don’t. What do you say when a person is grieving? You say nothing. We do not have to say anything. Sometimes, they just need us to be there and listen, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel. Life can be difficult, but death is even harder. Please reach out to your loved ones dealing with grief. The worst time for them is when the funeral is over, the food, cards, and gifts stop coming, and they are left alone with their silence and their pain. Don’t try and “fix” it, just be there.