How do I grieve? How do I support the bereaved?

As I stated in my previous blog, grieving is a natural, and a unique process to everyone.

When struck by a collective tragedy, people find great comfort in knowing that they are not alone. There is a sense that a bond with others has been created through a collective loss. Sharing one’s personal story, listening to other people’s stories, and grieving collectively are invaluable.

Whether it be a collective or an individual loss, the support from family, friends, colleagues, and one’s faith community cannot be underestimated. Most people do not need to see a counsellor, therapist or psychologist when dealing with grief. There are several strategies you can follow that will enable you to grieve in a healthy way.

As difficult as it may be, it is essential that you accept the reality of your loss. Give God thanks for the way this person has been a blessing in your life and share those loving memories with somebody who will equally value them. If the deceased person has caused you pain and heartache, and you didn’t have an opportunity to tell them, or you were not brave enough to confront them with the truth; and this is tearing you apart, tell it to Jesus and trust Him to hold this person accountable, according to His timetable. You can also write a posthumous letter to express your thoughts and feelings; and though the deceased person will not hear it or read it, it can offer you some relief. You may also want to share your pain with a trusted person who will support you in dealing with your emotions. Remember that Jesus felt the need for human companionship as He was agonising in the garden of Gethsemane.

If negative thoughts loaded with intense emotions come to your mind, and you feel tempted to replay some scenarios in your mind, acknowledge them but do not dwell on them. Choose to dwell on experiences that are comforting, healthy and enabling. Depend on God’s power and grace to help you fight this battle. Conversely, it may be tempting to discount flaws or negative experiences and paint a glossy picture of the deceased. That is a form a denial. Be honest with yourself. Let your description of the deceased person and the relationship you had with him/her be true and authentic.

Communicating what you are going through is very important, and fortunately, this doesn’t need to be restricted to one setting. You can talk about your feelings in your sitting room, under your porch, at the barber’s, while taking a walk, on a bus ride, in a support or prayer group - anywhere you feel safe. Besides, a good night sleep, regular exercise, a healthy diet and hygiene, wholesome hobbies, a supportive network of family and friends will assist you on your way to recovery. However, do not expect everyone to understand exactly what you are going through. There will be times when keeping a personal journal will feel like talking to your best friend.

The process of grieving can take weeks, months, or years. This depends on several factors such as the relationship or bond you had with the person, your life experiences, your perspective on life, your coping style, and your faith.

Life will never be the same again. So, do not be caught off guard. Make a list of those special dates: birthday, anniversary, graduation, New Year, Christmas, etc. Celebrate differently on those special days to attenuate the pain.

If you are feeling depressed, suicidal and cannot cope, it is an indication that you need to seek professional help.

Maybe you are not bereaved yourself, but you want to offer support to someone in their journey to recovery. Simple things like offering to babysit, to cook a meal, to feed the animals, to drive the person to the funeral home or to offer some groceries are very much appreciated. Find out how that person would like you to support her/him and make a note of it. As time goes by, revisit the grieving person’s preferences, and adjust accordingly. The days and weeks after the funeral can be extremely trying for some individuals. Check on them from time to time.

Usually, people appreciate when you mention the name of their deceased loved ones in a conversation, when you share a positive or humorous story about them, or when you send them an evocative picture of their loved one, at the appropriate time, of course.

Pay special attention to those who are not able to verbally communicate their thoughts and feelings because of learning disabilities, age, or illness. Ensure they receive appropriate support and know and feel that they are loved and supported. Don’t forget to show your support to the children and young people who are also affected by their loss. If possible, accompany them as long as they need your support so as to give them a sense of security, stability and continuity. Besides, don’t assume because people live under the same roof, they are supporting each other. There are different dynamics in couples and families and for multiple reasons, individuals within the same family circle can feel lonely, isolated, helpless, and hopeless. Not only your genuine help will be greatly appreciated, but it may be a lifeline to somebody.

Grieving is a road all of us have travelled or will travel at some point. Not only does Jesus join us as a faithful companion in that difficult journey, but He has already cushioned the blows by bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows, as Isaiah 53:4 reminds us. He is always by our side. Lean on Him. Confide in Him. Journey through the process with Him. Thus, you can rest assured that each step you take is also a step towards recovery.


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