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Navigating the wilderness of grief

Last Modified: 8/30/2019

This post was written by Cathy Petrie, LCSW, hospice bereavement counselor, and Michael De Winter, LSW, bereavement counselor/social worker, Parkview Home Health & Hospice.

There’s a reason we call it the “wilderness” of grief. You can easily lose yourself in the vast chasm created by the loss of a friend or loved one. Often, it can feel overwhelming, unending or like your entire world has come crashing down around you. As we mark National Grief Awareness Day, the bereavement support team at Parkview Hospice would like to share some suggestions for how to help someone who may traversing that wilderness today. Maybe it’s a loved one. Maybe it’s you.

Show up

This might just be the single best thing you can offer someone dealing with a loss: your presence. Just being there, without judgement, and allowing them the space to be wherever they are in their journey, can have a profound impact on a person who is grieving.

Talk less, listen more

This is a tough one for many of us. We live in a culture that places great value on always having something to say in every situation. But here’s the thing about grief; There are no words you can say to a grieving person that will make things better. There’s no simple “fix” for grief. Remember that it’s okay to not know what to say to someone who is mourning. Being authentic and fully present is far more powerful than some snappy advice.

No judgement

Grief is hard. Period. And it can cause someone we care about to act in ways that are very different from what we would normally expect from them. Grief can force us to question the very foundations of who we think we are and how we see the world. As a result, grief has the power to change us in very profound and meaningful ways. But these realizations don’t happen overnight. As your loved one muddles through each day following their loss, know that they’re trying to process what has happened and to make sense of it all. Try to be open and understanding of the multitude of thoughts and feelings they may be experiencing.

Know where to find additional support

The words, “We’re here for you,” are the core theme of the Parkview bereavement team. We strive to offer support for the families and friends of our patients. As hospice staff, we are honored to share the intense journey that comes with the end of life. The relationships formed with our patients’ family members and friends are rich with anticipatory grief. Although, sometimes our culture requires or promotes a fast return to “normalcy” and routine immediately following a death, we know that people sometimes need a little extra support during that important transitional time. Parkview’s bereavement counselors realize that encouragement and care are a continued need, for as long as the patient’s loved ones want it.

If you or someone you love is dealing with grief today, help is always available. We offer phone calls, newsletters, individual counseling and support groups. Please call 260-373-9800 for more information on how to get help.

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