The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Helping Others Deal With Grief

After the horrible, abominable mass murder in the Sandy Hook grade school in Newtown, Connecticut, in which one disturbed individual wielding military style weaponry killed 20 6-7 year old children and 7 adults, after dispatching his mother, and before committing suicide as the police arrived, grief abounds. Here are some things to know (care of the Dictionary of Pastoral Counseling) about grief and what you can do to help others.

We've all heard grief has stages. They are, in the modern understanding:

  • Numbness and denial: involved in the first five to seven days; 
  • Yearning intensely and painfully for the one (or ones) who has died, which includes preoccupation with that individual, searching, illusions of seeing that person, dreams, fantasies, hallucinations, self-reproach, identification with the behaviors, activities and illness of the dead, and suicidal feelings and thoughts. This lasts for weeks;
  • Disorganization and despair where other emotions dim, apathy and aimlessness set in, and an inability to see a positive future rises like a malign fog. This can last for over a year.
  • Reorganization is the final, sought for stage, in which the grieving person shifts their energies from the dead and begins to see a hopeful future without that person in it. After thirteen months most had not yet reached this stage. 
These are stages each grieving person must go through to heal and our job as friends and loved ones for the grieving is to understand and stand by that person. Assure the grieving that they are not losing their minds and that they will come through the process. It is natural. It is a process God designed us to help those who grieve find their way through with our love and understanding. 

Here are a few concrete steps you can take to assist the grieving: 

  1. Understand the process and make yourself familiar with the stages
  2. Visit the grieving often as love is shown by your presence. 
  3. Help the grieving person to express himself or herself by asking about what has taken place and by responding with empathy (don't try to fix the situation, remember Job's friends who got it right by being their for 7 days, but then blew it by trying to fix Job's grief with their recommendations)
  4. Prior to funerals a pastor will help families talk about the person lost, triggering their memories and allowing the minister to gain information about the dead and the bereaved which leads to a better development and accomplishment of the funeral. You can help your grieving friends of loved ones by encouraging their discussion of and remembrance of the one they have lost. 
  5. What is extremely hard today is to allow a person sufficient time to grieve. 
  6. Each grieving family member needs to be helped with equal care and love. 
That's a start. This will help you not to feel helpless and to act as a guiding beacon for those who grieve. Do not worry about what you will say. In the midst of grief, the person in pain will not remember what you said, only that you were there and he/she will love you for it. This applies to the funeral and to the long road afterwards. Be present, be loving, offer a listening ear, offer hope that the person is sane and will in time come through this long, painful process, emphasizing that they will do so in their own time. 

God bless you as you seek to help your suffering family, friends, or those you have just met.

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