I am often asked if working in the “grief business” makes it any easier to deal with grief. The answer quite honestly is yes…and no. Let me explain why.
On the “yes” side, as a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist® I was trained to help people get through the pain caused by unresolved grief. As part of that process, I had to personally look at any incomplete loss events in my own life that were causing me pain and work through them. By no means was that easy. Not at all. But it did require that I had to be honest about what unresolved grief has affected my life and how I had (or hadn’t) handled it. Since I worked on my own losses, I now have the personal experience to more effectively help others get through their own pain related to grief and loss.
Going through the program also showed me what is wrong with how society deals with grief today. Although I am not perfect (not at all), it has helped me to try and avoid the mistakes that society has perpetuated about grief. The myths about “the stages” (grief is not a linear process but is unique for every individual); the “urban legends” about grief (we should never “grieve alone” or “try to be strong”); and what to say versus what not to say to a griever (“I can’t imagine what you are going through” versus “They are in a better place”).
I find that I am more hypersensitive not to add to the mess. I try to be open and honest about my own grief in the hopes that others will find comfort in theirs. I talk about and remember my loved ones so that others feel comfortable doing the same. I try to listen to a griever (okay I tend to interupt too much but I am still working on this one) rather than analyze or judge them. I hope I can now offer some sense of hope when a griever feels alone or isolated. I have learned to guide people from their heads to their hearts, hopefully improving the quality of their lives. The memories continue, but the pain of their loss is diminished or gone. I know this has changed my life and made it easier to be in the “grief business”.
On the “no” side, grief of any kind is tough. Now I am around grief and grievers all the time. It is hard not to feel something for someone who is grieving. It is especially hard to not to feel something for someone you love who is grieving. Most times their grief just goes straight to my heart. Doesn’t matter who it is. I can just “feel” it. I want to help take the pain away. I’ve learned that in many instances I can help and in some instances I can’t. Moving forward is something a person has to do for themselves.
Grief is an individual and unique journey. Even though I have grieved deeply, I really don’t know how another person “feels” on their own grief journey. I can say though that I can “relate” to what they are going through. Ultimately, a person has to be a willing participant and want to get through it. If they want to avoid it, I can’t be much help. All I can do is listen and be there for them. Maybe they will reach out but it has to be when they are ready. This is what breaks my heart. You know if they just took that first small step they would begin a journey of healing and recovery. But it isn’t up to me and I have to accept that. This is probably the most difficult part of working in the “grief business”, you want to help but you know the timing has to be right and the individual has to be willing.
WHY I CHOSE TO HELP OTHERS
Here are some quotes that resonated with me about why I choose to help others with their grief:
“Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand.” ~ Patti Smith
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” ~ Charles Dickens
“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” ~ Steve Maraboli
“Comfort comes from knowing that people have made the same journey. And solace comes from understanding how others have learned to sing again.” ~ Helen Steiner Rice
“Make your own recovery the first priority in your life.” ~ Unknown
“Grief is like a ball of string, you start at one end and wind. Then the ball slips through your fingers and rolls across the floor. Some of your work is undone but not all. You pick it up and start over again, but you never have to begin again at the end of the string. You’ve made some progress.” ~ Unknown
Sending you love, comfort and peace!