Living Well, Dying Well

Mary Friedel-Hunt

By early March people are looking forward to spring with its sunnier and warmer days and the anticipation of more outdoor activities, budding trees and flowers. But how does this work for those who are grieving?
There are no rules or order for grief. Grief is unique to each person and quite unpredictable depending on the person, the loss and the circumstances. There are certainly feelings that most who grieve experience but in no certain order or time.
The same principle applies to the change of seasons. One would think that winter is a time when those who grieve feel worse with short gray days and more time inside. But for many, winter is a relief, a time that feels safe with fewer social events where they do not have to feel vulnerable to insensitive remarks others might make as they attempt to fix the grieving person or genuinely want to reach out but just do not know how. Winter is a silent time, a cocoon time. Wrapping up in warm clothes with a cup of hot tea is often soothing to someone who has experienced a loss. There are no rules. Many others who grieve hate winter because they feel lonelier or because of the holidays that are difficult.
So when spring comes one would think the bereaved might feel more uplifted. But that depends on the person, their loss, when and how it occurred and more. There is a subtle and sometimes not so subtle expectation from those around the bereaved that sunny and warmer days are uplifting and time heals. That is true, for some, perhaps for many. But it is not true for all. Often the bereaved feel more vulnerable … as a certain kind of new beginning approaches without their beloved.
The bottom line is we do not know what a grieving person feels or needs in any season, on any given day, even five years, 10 years or more since their significant loss. The key is to drop so-called rules; drop expectations; drop attempts to fix others. That just robs them of their need to feel their pain. Their healing is IN their pain and the best gift you can give a grieving person is to listen compassionately to what they need, be it to share or not. No judgments. No fixing. It takes as long as it takes and most who have experienced a significant loss will grieve that loss forever because it forever changed them and their lives. They learn how to manage life lived around the hole that person’s absence created, but the grief does not go away. Just be there. Listen. Suggest a day to go to lunch.
The impossible is not expected of you but being aware, present and sensitive to all people pretty much guarantees that you will not add to any pain the bereaved or anyone is experiencing.
“Be Here Now,” as the late Ram Dass said. If you are, you will be aware of what is needed.

Mary Friedel-Hunt MA LCSW is a clinical social worker, thanotologist and certified bereavement counselor. She can be reached at mfriedelhunt@charter.net; P.O. Box 1036, Spring Green, WI 53588; or http://www.PersonalGrowthandGriefSupportCenter.com.