There’s no right or wrong way to grieve
Dear Nigerians, there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. Stop expecting everyone to grieve the same way. It’s not realistic. People are different and they react to the death of their loved ones differently.
This post sums up my thoughts on this issue:
“Her husband died in a car crash. When they broke the news to her, she kept staring at nothing in particular for some minutes. She walked back to the kitchen and dished food for herself and ate.
Her husband’s siblings who broke the news came prepared to calm her down, they expected the usual reaction. They couldn’t believe that a wife would have the appetite for food when she just received the news of her husband’s demise.
While they were still trying to think of what to make of her reaction, she went back to her kitchen to finish the cleaning she was doing before they arrived. When she was done cleaning, she excused herself to take a shower upstairs.
For the next two hours, she didn’t return to them in the living room. It happened that after taking her shower, she went to bed and was still deeply asleep when the knock on her door woke her up.
Her in-laws felt disrespected by her actions. They even insinuated she’s possibly happy that her husband was no more or had a hand in his untimely death. They were saying all manner of things to her face.
She was calm and collected. She didn’t shed a tear, didn’t ask any questions or answered any directed at her and that infuriated them the more. They expected her to grieve the usual way but they got an unusual reaction instead and to them, that was not good enough.
Grief is a natural response to loss. Loss here could be a divorce, relationship breakup, an unfavourable health verdict, job loss, financial loss, miscarriage, death of loved one’s, loss of friendship etc.
It is the emotional pain you feel when someone or something you love or care about is taken away. And most times, this feeling can be overwhelming.
People experience all kinds of unexpected emotions, from shock, anger, disbelief, guilt, confusion, denial, feeling like they are having a bad dream, to questioning their religious or spiritual beliefs, numbness, profound sadness, emptiness, despair, and emotional instability.
It is not your duty to make people feel worse during such a difficult time, neither is it your place to tell them how to grieve. You don’t need to have answers to their unending questions or give advice to anybody grieving.
The most important thing you can do for a grieving person is to simply be there. It’s your support and caring presence that will help them cope with the pain they are feeling and gradually, they can begin to heal.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief does not always unfold in orderly, predictable stages. It can be an emotional rollercoaster, with unpredictable highs, lows, and setbacks. Everyone grieves differently, so avoid telling people what they should be feeling or doing.
They could display extreme emotions and behaviors. They may have feelings of guilt, anger, despair, and fear. They may yell, obsess about the death, lash out at anyone, cry for hours or smile like nothing happened. Don’t judge them or take their reactions personally.
There is no set timetable for grieving. Recovery after bereavement may be longer or shorter. Don’t pressure people to move on or make them feel like they’ve been grieving for too long as this can actually slow the healing process. Grief has a mind of its own and works at its own pace.
Worry less about what to say to a grieving person, it’s best to listen to them more. Being present and listening compassionately to them can be a huge source of comfort and healing. You can start by simply asking “Do you feel like talking?” This is you letting them know that you are available to listen to whatever they have to say.
Don’t try to force a bereaved person to open up to you. Allow them talk about how they feel if they feel like it and don’t try to hush them either. Allow them grieve the way they want to.
It doesn’t matter if you have gone through a similar loss, remember that grief is an individual experience. No two people’s experience is exactly the same, so don’t claim to “know” how the person is feeling or compare your grief to theirs.
Grief is a highly emotional experience, the bereaved needs the freedom to express their feelings without fear, judgment, criticism, no matter how irrational you feel their reaction is.
Be genuine in your communication with them. Don’t try to minimize their loss or offer unsolicited advice.
It is often difficult for many grieving people to ask for help or have the energy or motivation to call when they need something, so instead of saying, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” make it easier by making specific suggestions. Offer to help with specific tasks, such as helping with funeral arrangements.
Shopping for groceries or running errands for them. Stay by their side to take phone calls and receive guests. Take care of their children, pick them up from school, drive them to wherever they need to go. Provide them with all the emotional support you can give.
They will continue to grieve long after the funeral is over. The length of the grieving process varies from person to person. The bereaved may need your support for months or even years.
Stay in touch with that person and periodically check in with them. You can drop by for a brief visit if possible. Once the funeral is over, 99% of mourners are all gone. The initial shock of the loss may have worn off, your support is now more valuable than ever.
Make no assumptions about the genuineness or fakeness of someone’s grief based on outward appearance. A bereaved person may look fine on the outside, while they are suffering on the inside.
They may be keeping up appearances just to hide their true feelings. They may be devastated but try to mask their true feelings. Stop telling people how yo grieve. Let them grieve the best way they know how.”
Written by Amaka Nicholas