There Is No Expiration Date on Grief: Hold Space for Those Who Mourn

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Our society is obsessed with quick fixes and instant gratification. People expect medical treatments to have an instant effect on their symptoms. Shoppers are used to being able to click a button and have something delivered in only a few days right to their home. When parts of our lives don’t fit in with our demand for instant satisfaction and convenience, we as a culture no longer know how to handle them.

Grief is a perfect example. We are a culture of people who have lost the ability to mourn properly. More concerning is the fact that we have also lost the ability to express compassion for friends who are mourning.

While it’s certainly can be a frustrating experience to have loved ones mired in depression or grief, that doesn’t mean we should simply cut them out of our lives because they are negative. The truth of life is that many experiences are negative, and allowing yourself to feel the emotions that come from difficult experiences does not make you a negative person. Instead, it makes you an honest human who values the full spectrum of experience.

The depth of sorrow we experience after losing someone we love is, in a way, a testament to the sincerity of our love for that person. When someone dies, our grief is one of the last things we have to hold on to. Some people say that you die twice: once when your heart stops beating, and once when someone speaks your name for the last time. Grieving, while ostensibly inconvenient to others, is one way to keep the memory of the people you love and have lost alive.

Instead of telling somebody experiencing profound grief to “get over it,” or looking for the perfect phrase or act of kindness to fix their sorrow, you should do your best to acknowledge that grief is healthy, acceptable, and even beautiful. When someone shares their grief with you, they don’t expect you to change it or take it away. What they hope for is the validation that comes from you understanding their pain.

Recognizing that someone you love is hurting because they lost someone they love isn’t easy. Holding space for those who hurt is not a simple task. However, it is the best thing you can do for someone you love who is morning. Instead of offering placating phrases or demanding that they move on, you can acknowledge their grief and the fact that it is valid. Let your friend know you will keep them in your thoughts, prayers, or heart. Then do the decent thing, and continue to show up for that person.

Grief ebbs and flows, waxes and wanes. It may simmer down to a background emotion until something happens that reminds someone of a person they loved and lost. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, or even just a surprise memory can trigger profound grief and sorrow. Whether it has been a few months or a few decades, that grief is still valid. It is still a necessary part of the human experience, and the person morning their loss deserves compassion and support, not judgment.

Seeing someone that you love hurting can be painful. That doesn’t mean the person wants you to be in pain or is trying to make your life less pleasant. Do your best to respect the way that people process their grief and sorrow. After all, you probably hope that people will continue to love you, grieve you, and speak your name long after you die. You can’t expect that respect without showing it to others first.

 

For previous Ladybud articles about grief and mourning, click here.