Grief Counseling: A Note to Friends

I need your help; here’s how.

As some folks might know, I’m seeing a counselor to help me through the grief I’m experiencing at my separation and divorce. As I discussed in a recent blog post, the man I fell in love with is dead, at least as far as I’m concerned. Grief counseling is helping me deal with that loss.

My counselor gives me “homework” to do after each session. I did last week’s homework today in preparation for our next session. It consisted of two parts: a reading assignment and a worksheet. The reading assignment had some information I want to share with my friends — most of whom have been extremely supportive. (Even if you’re not one of my friends, if you’re experiencing grief or have a friend who is, read on.)

The reading assignment was a four-page flyer titled “Coping with Loss: Guide to Grieving and Bereavement.” It covers what you might expect: a definition of grief, a comparison of grief with depression, a discussion of how trauma affects grief. It also covers the “five stages of grief” — if it’s possible, I’m going through three of them at the same time, with an occasional dose of the fourth! I found the discussion of the suffering part of grief, with a list of the emotional and physical symptoms to be right on target. Unfortunately.

But what I want to mention here is some of the discussion regarding the support of friends. I’d like to quote a few passages that I highlighted.

Let people who care about you take care of you, even if you pride yourself on being strong and self-sufficient. Especially if you live away from family, true friends will have the shoulders you cry on until you begin to recover. (emphasis added)

Those of you who have seen me at my emotional worst will understand this. And I need to say again how much I appreciate those shoulders. Thank you. Your friendship means so much to me and is really helping me through this.

Some friends are a lot less comfortable with my emotional lapses. They’re not accustomed to seeing me upset, let alone crying. They feel helpless — and I really can’t blame them. But this passage offers some advice:

If people don’t know what they can do to help, tell them, whether it’s to go with you to a movie, cook you a meal, or just hold you as you cry. If someone is uncomfortable with your displays of emotion or need to talk about the person you lost, gently let him or her know that talking out your grief is part of your healing process.

And it really is.

The main thing helping me right now is staying active. I’m busy at home, packing for my upcoming move, but I can’t pack all the time. Going out with friends to dinner or a movie or even a drive or hike is really helpful. And if I can keep my mind off my woes, I’m a lot less likely to get weepy.

The final point is one I need to share with the folks who are trying to be helpful by sort of blowing it all off:

Don’t let other people tell you how to feel, and don’t tell yourself how to feel, either. Your grief is your own, and no one else can tell you when it’s time to “move on” or “get over it.”

I will eventually move on and get over it. Really. I know I will. But not anytime soon. It’s something I need to work through at my own pace. Please don’t try to rush me.

So many friends have voiced their confidence that I’ll come out on top and recover quickly from this setback in my life. I know they’re right but I’m also glad they’re telling me. It’s good to hear it, it helps me stay confident when things are looking bad.

It’s the support of my friends that I depend on as work though my grief. Thank you.

2 thoughts on “Grief Counseling: A Note to Friends

  1. Good post. As they said, you need to tell people what you need. From 2000 miles away, you have my sympathy and support. And a virtual shoulder.

    • I think my problem was that I didn’t really know what I needed. Now I think I do. I do feel bad for the folks who want to help me but feel so helpless. Frustrating all around. I’m working on that, too. I think what I’m going through is strengthening a lot of my existing friendships and building new ones.

      Thanks for the shoulder!

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