By Pat Schwiebert, R.N.
Long after you have come to terms with your loss, you may still be holding a grudge against others for what they have said to you or failed to say to you, during your grieving time. To understand why they acted as they did you need only remember what it was like before this tragedy in your life, and how you treated friends who had experienced the death of a loved one. What did you do? How often did you visit them or encourage them to talk about their grief? If you did very little, or did whatever you did with a feeling of awkwardness, you can perhaps appreciate more fully the less-than-adequate behavior of your friends in your time of need. This is not to justify their behavior but only to explain it.
Many well-meaning companions honestly don’t know what to do to help you through your time of grief. They’re afraid to say the wrong thing, or they may think the less said the better. Because bereaved persons are not usually the most consistent people around, others may be a bit hesitant to attempt to reach out to you. How much courage does it take for you, as the bereaved, to tell people what you need so they can respond appropriately? One of your most difficult, yet necessary tasks will be to assume the role of educator in this process. In order to get what you need you must be willing to create the possibility for it to happen, by speaking directly and clearly about what is helpful to you.
How nice it would be if people were already willing and able to give you whatever you need. But such support is rare. Still, most of your friends do have the potential to be helpful and, given a few guidelines, can be a real asset to you. Try to remember:
- Your friends DO care about you.
- They DO want to help.
- They CAN be educated.
Don’t give up on your friends when they make a mistake (and they probably will!) You have already lost enough.
Peace to you.