Dealing with grief is a deeply personal experience, and it can be challenging when friends and family respond in different ways. In this blog, I share my own journey and highlight three distinct strategies that emerged from the people around me. By shedding light on these responses, I hope to reach those who may benefit from this insight. Whether you are grieving or seeking to support someone who is, this article aims to equip you with valuable ways to navigate the complexities of grief.
Strategy 1: The “Get over it” Approach
One of the strategies I encountered was the misguided notion that I needed to “get over” my grief for the sake of the departed loved one’s spirit. This perspective left me feeling burdened with guilt as if I were responsible for holding back their spiritual progress. However, our relationship was founded on freedom, trust, and forgiveness. If someone suggests that your grief is what’s keeping your loved one around, it’s essential to reject this notion. Politely, yet firmly, remind them that there is no basis for such claims. The truth is, individuals who employ this approach may not possess the necessary understanding or tools to navigate the depths of your grief.
Strategy 2: The “You don’t deserve to grieve” Mentality
Perhaps the most frustrating response is when individuals attempt to undermine or invalidate someone’s grief. This stems from a selfish mindset that seeks to compare and compete over who has the right to grieve. Let me emphasize this unequivocally: grief is not a competition. Each person’s grief is unique, and it is incomparable. I once encountered someone who suggested they didn’t deserve to feel sadness over the loss because others had it worse. I countered by explaining that everyone has the right to grieve, regardless of their relationship or proximity to the departed. The nature of each relationship is distinct, and no one’s grief can be deemed better or worse than another’s—it is simply different.
Strategy 3: The “You can feel whatever you want, whenever you want” Approach
The friends who adopt this strategy have been my saving grace. They understand that life goes on, but they also acknowledge the significance of my loss. They treat me with the same love and respect as before, recognizing that grief is a new emotional aspect I must grapple with. If I find myself overcome with tears in public, these friends patiently wait for the moment to pass, allowing me to express my emotions authentically. I recall a conversation where I shared a story about my partner with one such friend. He responded with a heartfelt acknowledgement of the amazing stories I had about my loved one. It was a relief to be able to talk about him, share our life together, and reflect on the invaluable lessons he taught me.
Grief is a deeply personal journey, and the reactions of those around us can profoundly impact our healing process. By understanding and recognizing the various responses people may exhibit, we can navigate these complexities with empathy and compassion. Remember, no one else’s grief can be compared to your own or vice versa—it is simply different. Let us strive to be supportive, allowing individuals to grieve in their own time and their own way. Together, we can create a space where healing and remembrance can coexist, honouring the lives of those we have lost.