A bereaved person was heard to make the following statement, “If you don’t ask for what you need you probably aren’t going to get it!”
Too frequently this happens to be true. One way you can get some of your needs met is to educate others with whom you come in contact about these needs. I speak about how this might happen and give some examples in the article below. I hope what you read here is helpful to you.
Dealing with Grief or Coping with Loss: Getting What you Need Through Educating Others
“Can you imagine? I have enough to do to keep myself afloat in this sea of grief without educating other people on what it’s like to grieve and how they might support me! Why should I do this?”
Remember that as a grieving person you have a responsibility to take care of yourself.Caring for yourself is essential because mourning and grieving require immense emotional energy. In reality, the business of educating others has much to do with taking care of you. Taking care of yourself includes seeing that your needs are met; this is not selfishness. Unfortunately, because of society’s reluctance to address issues of death, dying, mourning, and grief, you, the griever, will most likely be the person to assure that this taking-care-of-self happens.
Educating other people about grief can be a burden that grieving persons assume. For some people, it is an action they can identify as doing something positive in the face of loss. For others, it can be an intentional choice because they realize if this education does not occur the multiple misconceptions and misperceptions surrounding death, dying, mourning, and grief will persist. Issues that formerly felt abstract now feel personal.
Educating other people takes energy. Not all grievers may be prepared to use their energies in this way. Sometimes it may feel as if it just is not worth the effort. For other more private reasons, not everyone will feel this is an appropriate action. However, no one is in a better position than you, the griever, to “make real” the actuality of living through and with significant loss. By being willing to assume this role of educator you act on behalf of your own needs, those of other grieving persons, and future grievers as well. This kind of education usually takes place face-to-face.
Examples of what you might say in educating other people about what it is like to be dealing with grief or coping with loss:
Sally: “You really should get on with your life. You know Jim (Joyce’s husband) never liked to see you cry.”
Joyce: “I know that as my friend you will hear me when I say that I need to cry. In my grief, tears sometimes help to wash away the terrible pain I feel in missing Jim.”
Lesson: Persons experiencing grief cry. Crying is part of the natural human response to loss.
Joan: “You are young; you can always have another child.”
Mary:”It really doesn’t matter how old I am because no other child can replace this child. Besides, this is the child I expected to have with me for a long time.”
Lesson: One child cannot replace another.
Fred:”It’s been three months already since your wife died. Don’t you think it is about time you got back to your old self again?
Tom: “I know you will try to understand when I say that I can never be the exact same person I was before Ellen died. I expect eventually I will smile and laugh more but please don’t expect me to be the very same person. I will still “be me” but not the same.”
Lesson: Experience of significant loss changes a person. The person now lives with a changed perspective, a changed understanding, and different ways of responding to life as a result of relearning his or her world without the loved one in it.
Educating other persons may help to fulfill the griever’s need to make sense of the loss. In part, this process of making sense of the loss has to do with testing your own realities against the realities of persons around you. Frequently, commonly held notions continue to reinforce society’s misconceptions and misperceptions surrounding loss. It is at this juncture that educating others can make a difference. Holding your own reality up to the realities of others allows you to own your own experience of loss. At the same time there is an opportunity to provide other persons with a more accurate picture of what it is like to live through and with loss.
As a society we would do well to give more validity to the lived experiences of grieving people as opposed to trying to fit those experiences into preconceived ideas about how persons “should” respond to loss. Grieving persons are some of our most valuable educators; we need to listen. We need to honor and support their efforts because, as the old adage states, “experience is the best teacher.”