Since my mom died in the beginning of 2008, I have been on a journey of self-rediscovery. While I wish every day that I could have her back, I have learned so many valuable lessons about myself and about how to show up for others when they are going through hard times. The pearls of wisdom I have gained came from learning what felt good to me, what helped me, and now from working with hundreds of grievers as a Grief Recovery Specialist and Transformational Grief Coach.
Here are some of the most valuable things I’ve learned:
1. Don’t be afraid to just show up.
Your presence is one of the most valuable things you can provide to anyone when they are going through a hard time… and really just in general in life. The expression is true, “Showing up is half the battle.”
2. Listen more and talk less.
Often when we talk to someone who is going through a hard time we are trying to make it all better. But the second we let go of that and stop trying to fix the other person, we not only become a better friend, but we will be less drained. While wanting to make it all better is coming from a loving place, it typically isn’t received well by the griever.
3. Let go of the “at least.”
Anytime you say “at least” you run the risk of diminishing the other person’s experience. At least also demonstrates an effort to to fix (see above), when all people really want is to be validated in their feelings. “Your feelings are valid.”
4. Compare leads to despair.
When you compare yourself to others it rarely leads to anything positive. This is also one of the foundational guidelines at the Grief Recovery Institute. When we compare we typically end up diminishing what the other person has gone through, diminishing what you have gone through, or create a disconnect between you.
Every loss is important to the person who experienced it and it deserves to be honored with grief. Showing up takes courage, but we don’t always know what to do. People often compare circumstances to help improve the situation, but that isn’t typically what people want.
5. Feelings, of all kinds, are valuable.
We don’t get to choose which feelings we numb, so we just end up numbing them all. If we allow the sorrow, we experience more joy than we ever thought possible (I see this one first hand at the end of every workshop I teach).
6. Ask permission.
This is a good thing to do with advice, opinions, story sharing, and even hugs. If we say, “Would a hug be helpful? Do you want my opinion? May I share a story that feels relevant?” or “Are you looking for someone to just listen or do you want my advice?” People will feel like they have a choice and appreciate the opportunity to get what they need.
7. Keep checking in.
After my mom died, some family friends of our send cards every month for the first year. They would tell stories about my mom and just check in to see how we were doing. It was so nice to know that they too hadn’t forgotten.
8. Grief is a part of being human.
It comes from loss of any kind (death, divorce, breakups, transitions, marriage, loss of health, etc.) The more we allow it to be okay for people to feel the range of human emotions, the more easily they can move through it.
9. Smile at strangers.
People just want to be loved and accepted. The more we can love and accept people where they are, the more their inner light shines.
10. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
Your life is infinitely better when you do. By offering compassion to strangers, friends and family, you will likely experience more joy, love, and peace in all of your interactions. We don’t know what is going on under the façade of “I’m fine,” and if we did, we would almost always be nicer to each other.
If you aren’t doing things already, not to worry. Every moment is a new chance to do things differently, because when you know better you do better.
If you found this helpful, I invite you to download my free Compassion Code Starter Kit e-book at www.laurajack.com/compassioncode
This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn’t make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grievedifferently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let’s talk about living with loss. If you have a story you’d like to share, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.