Let me know if you need something

Published 5:01 pm Thursday, February 28, 2019

BY Jenny Filush-Glaze
Grief Relief

Just this last week, whether it was in a classroom, at the bedside of someone approaching death, in a support group or within the walls of a grief session, I have heard the absolute despair of those who are grieving about a particular issue that needs further discussion.

You’ve seen it and heard it countless amounts of times, the dreaded, “Let me know if you need something.”

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I will be the first to admit that I am guilty of saying these words as well, the quick and easy phrase that allows us to feel as though we are being present for those experiencing loss, and yet it winds up falling into the category of empty promises. Not that it is intentional because I truly believe that we, as supporters really wish to find ways to comfort, however as time passes and our offer remains unaccepted, we tend to walk forward, leaving people behind that could still benefit from our initial willingness to provide “that something.”

Truthfully, one of the hardest things that individuals go through while grieving is the feeling that no one actually wants to listen to them speak about their loved one. They describe the eyes of friends and family who quickly avoid contact or who change the subject, apparently uncomfortable with our sadness or even more troubling, unwilling to “bring down their own good mood” by having to listen to that sadness.

When I talk about this with others, there is instant shock and open exclamations of “Surely this is not true! How can we treat others like this?” And yet, it absolutely is an experience shared by many and with more discussions, maybe we can find a way to improve the way that we have chosen to support one another.

Remember how we talk about “time” and how misrepresented that word is in relation to grief? You would be surprised at how many people who are still in their raw and fresh moments of grieving are told that “they should be better by now.”

The real kicker is that these statements are made to individuals at the 3 month mark, 6 months, a year, etc.

Again, remind me who decided the amount of time it takes to express our grief and then come back and talk to me about it once you have actually walked the path. I know that sounds harsh, and maybe it is to an extent, however I feel very strongly that we need to address the expectations we have for those who are grieving and “encourage” their feeling expression versus “discouraging” them.

Our actions, our body language and the words that we choose to say in conversations with the many whom are walking their grief paths can go a long way in someone’s healing process, or, sadly it can also negatively impact the journey causing unexpected feelings of guilt and shame. Yes, I know that talking about death or sickness or a loss of any kind can be uncomfortable. I also know that if it is uncomfortable for us, can you imagine how the person going through it feels?

“Let me know if I can do anything” should absolutely be followed by the promise that it is an open invitation and that you are sincere in your willingness to be present.

Sometimes, the greatest gift you can give someone during this time is just an ear to listen and allow for feeling validation. Time — it doesn’t have to be a major commitment, just know that even a few minutes can make the difference in someone’s healing journey.

Have you got the time?