The Dangers of Grief: Lessons From Bobbi Kristina's Death

FILE - In this Feb. 12, 2011 file photo, singer Whitney Houston, left, and her daughter Bobbi Kristina arrive at the Pre-Gram
FILE - In this Feb. 12, 2011 file photo, singer Whitney Houston, left, and her daughter Bobbi Kristina arrive at the Pre-Grammy Gala & Salute to Industry Icons with Clive Davis honoring David Geffen in Beverly Hills, Calif. Bobbi Kristina Brown has been spotted wearing a sparkly bauble on her ring finger, but she's not planning on getting married anytime soon. A rep for Brown's mother, the late Whitney Houston, says the 19-year-old is “simply wearing her mother's ring” and that she's not engaged. (AP Photo/Dan Steinberg, file)

It's been almost six months since the tragic discovery of Bobbi Kristina's body face down in a bathtub. After her family exhausted all hope for a miracle, Bobbi Kristina has now left this earth.

Time has passed, but the questions about her death remain. Could it have been an accident? Overdose? Suicide? Or foul play?

No matter what the final cause of death, there is one constant: grief. Grief seemed to be a key factor in her senseless death. Grief causes vulnerability.

I know this because I've seen this scenario over and over again and it's not just me. My days are filled with lecturing around the country and online to therapists who have a Bobbi Kristina in their practice and are desperately concerned for that patient's safety.

These people are crippled by loss. They are all around us, yet all too often they go unnoticed because the signs are easy to miss or misinterpret. In grief, you can't see the wounds and yet they are painful, isolating and dangerous. They could be your family, your co-workers or your neighbors. They need love and guidance from friends and family as well as professional help.

There are three truths that need our attention. Time does not heal all. Grief is serious. And grief can be dangerous.

I want to be clear: nobody is to blame in grief. Grief is a no judgment zone. Being in grief and being the loved one of someone in grief are both unspeakably hard. And hindsight is 20/20. I believe we all do the best we can.

However, I also believe it's time we as a society took grief more seriously.

When we think about those having the most difficult time with grief, we often picture an elderly widow who lost her spouse of 50 years, but the reality is that children and young adults are typically the forgotten grievers. They are highly vulnerable to risky behavior and the wrong influences because they don't have the foundation to process the horrific circumstances of death at a young age. I get this concept, not just as the expert, but also because my mother died at a young age. Bobbi Kristina was just 18 when her mother died.

We also know that if you struggle with addiction you're probably not going to make it on your own. You're going to need a counselor, a sponsor and a 12-step program. When you are grieving it's the time to double down on a battle with addiction, not be lenient.

We live in a society that expects you to be over the death of a loved one in a year and then you're done. That simply is not reality.

Two of the most excruciating things I see people go through in grief are the anniversaries and the triggers around them. People in grief tell me all the time the second and third anniversaries are the worst. That's when they realize on a very deep primal level their loved one is never ever coming back.

That's what Bobbi Kristina had: an upcoming anniversary. I call that the Thano-Versary. Thano means death. We return to the pain of the death.

We have yet to get answers about what happened to Bobbi Kristina, but it's never too soon to start taking grief more seriously. Here's what you can do if you have someone grieving in your life.

1. Look for signs of pain. In Bobbi Kristina's case, she tweeted about missing her mom. If you see something like this, acknowledge it and let the person know you are there.

2. Don't assume pain goes away quickly. Our grief is as unique as our fingerprints, but generally grief lingers much longer than we think. Three years, as in Bobbi Kristina's case, is not a lot of time. Reach out to the person in grief and check on them. Don't wait for them to ask you for help.

3. Keep an eye out for triggers. For instance, the Whitney Houston movie could have been a trigger. The Super Bowl in January may have been one-her mother had sung the Star Spangled Banner. The Grammys-her mother died the night before three years earlier. For your neighbor, it could be something in the news that relates to the person who passed. It could be a birthday or a holiday. Whatever it is, be sensitive to it.

4. Double your attention around anniversaries. Some people don't want to mention an anniversary for fear of reminding the griever. Let me tell you, the person in grief remembers. Don't be afraid to let them know you remember and care.

5. Recognize risky behavior as a cry for help. Abusing drugs, hanging out with the wrong crowd and other harmful behavior are signs. Get the person the help they need.

For all of our safety, we must see that in grief we are often much more fragile than previously thought. Remember the five ways to help above, but also know that sometimes your love is not enough, especially for our young. Sometimes you need to make sure the person in grief gets professional care.

Bobbi Kristina's death is a painful lesson for all of us that if the love is real, grief is real as well. Our hearts are with Bobbi Kristina's family.

Reach out to someone you know in grief right now. Let them know you care.

For more free info on how to help someone in grief, go to grief.com.