Loss sucks. It’s hard and it hurts and its confusing. Most of the time.
Sometimes we aren’t phased but when we are it’s usually pretty intense. The experience of grief tends to come in waves- periods of highs (lots of pain) and lows (not as much pain). During the lows most, people are ok to handle the grief on their own. During the highs most people need support, whether they recognize it or not. When we are not supported it takes longer to process the loss.
The tricky part is that, generally speaking, people are not very good at support. They’re easily confused by emotions- their own and the emotions of others. I believe that there is something in most people that tells them that they ought to offer support and if they tried hard enough to remove their pride they’d likely be able to muster up a few caring words to offer the person in pain.
Personally, I struggle to understand how so many people are so good at making another person’s loss about them. They do this by saying things like “I didn’t know what to say” or “I just can’t relate” or “I’m not good at consoling” or even “I don’t know him/her well”. These statements take the focus off of the person in need and on to their own emotional needs.
Most often when someone is in pain they simply need to know that you aware of their loss, that you are sorry they have experienced a loss and that you are there for them if they should need you. Of course, there is a time and a place to offer caring words and there is not always an appropriate time to do this. However, technology now-a-days makes it easy for us to offer support from the furthest distance. Which conveniently provides comfort for the person providing the support- not that its about them.
So, there is the death of a loved one and most often that person has lived a long life. Unless the person was close to you, you will likely be able to process this loss easier than other losses. Unless of course you are spun into an existential crisis. Again- this is more about you and less about the loss of the person. Consoling others at a funeral is basic and even so robotic that it can be weirdly awkward.
Then there’s the death of a relationship- divorce or break-up. This loss can be harder for most people to understand in terms of grief- that most people grieve when a significant relationship ends.
There’s also the loss of a child- pre-birth and post birth. This type of loss seems to be especially difficult for people, who have not experienced the loss of a child, to understand. However, this type of loss is the loss of potential, of a life unlived and can be particularly difficult to process especially when unsupported.
There’s other losses too. The thing about loss is that we all experience it in different ways and identify loss uniquely to us. However, none of us are exempt from the experience of loss. Grief is universal as is the need to feel connected, understood and supported.
I encourage you to take a minute to think of the people in your life and if you know someone who has experienced loss, is grieving and is in need of support- reach out to that person. Let them know that you are thinking of them and that you care. That’s it. That’s all it takes. Trust me, you can do it. After all, its not about you, its about them.
May less people know the pain of isolation in addition to the pain of grief/loss. May more people be able to process their grief without also feeling uncared for. May we all be able to know what if feels like to receive genuine support.