The Importance of Finding a Grief Companion

Do you need to find someone who will try to understand what you are feeling? Historically, our culture has taught us to keep our feelings under guard and the expression of grief is often considered a sign of weakness. Add to this the fact that the emotions most commonly associated with grieving–anger, guilt, and depression–have the tendency to isolate and keep people at a distance. All of this converges at a time when one of the most valuable coping techniques, a trusted companion (or companions) who will be there with you, is needed.

Can we break through the isolation barrier to dealing with grief? The answer is yes.

To begin with, let’s not forget that positive human interaction is one of the most critical components of sound mental health. Many psychologists emphasize that the quality of our interpersonal relationships is as important as the food we eat or the vitamins we take. We are social beings who thrive on interaction with others. The need for a friend, family member, or other support person during the grief process is essential to forming a nurturing community if we are to prevent unnecessary suffering.

Specifically, the ideal support person allows us to grieve in our style and not direct the course of grief. Therefore, we need good listeners first, who are not afraid to be around pain. Some of our friends may be good at helping with chores and getting things done, but are not good listeners. This suggests the importance of recognizing the pluses and minuses of your support network and the need for more than one caregiver.

● Do not be afraid to ask for help at this distressing time. The search for support obviously begins with close friends and family members who may or may not be of great help.

● Consequently, others you do not consider being close friends, as often happens, may turn out to be most sensitive to your needs. At some point, you may have to educate your support system by telling them exactly what you need at a given time: to be alone, to talk about what you are feeling at the moment, or that you need to cry and not to let your crying upset them.

● If your family and friends are unable to provide the needed support, especially for a long period of time, look for a support group at your local hospice, hospital, or church. This may be necessary when some support persons think you should be getting over it and begin to abandon you. Education about the normalcy of your experience can be an important outcome of any group. So much can be learned about grief and grief work, and often you may be able to connect with another who is going through a similar loss. Helping each other in the listening process is often a healing experience for both.

● In the meantime, learn all you can about dealing with loss. Ask the support group leader, the bereavement coordinator at your local hospice, or your local librarian to recommend readings as well as others who have been through similar losses. Search the Internet. There are many helpful websites that have chat rooms where you can ask questions of others who are further along in their grief than you are. One may turn out to be the grief companion you need. Do a Google search on grief and you will find many choices.

In the final analysis, your choices, your wisdom, the action you take will play the key role in how you cope with your loss. And your support network can help immensely. You know your needs better than anyone else. Decide who you feel is best equipped to meet those needs and be your companion in the journey to managing your loss. Then take action to reinvest in life.