Has someone close to you died and you wondered why everyone seems to be avoiding you? I have. At first you don’t notice it as much because you are in a daze. But once you emerge from the fog, you realize no one seems to be around. It’s like everyone disappeared to the four corners of the earth. Anywhere so they wouldn’t have to run into you. Or at least that is how it seems. Don Miguel Ruiz teaches in The Four Agreements “Don’t take anything personally.” Easier said than done when you are looking for support and all you can hear are crickets. You start to wonder what you might have said. You start wonder what you might have done. Why is this happening?
IT’S NOT YOU
Most likely people aren’t avoiding you, they are avoiding grief. Historically society has treated grief and loss as tabu topics. People avoid you because they have their own issues with grief. Maybe seeing your grief reminds them of their own. Maybe being reminded of their own grief brings them pain. Feeling their own pain may force them to do something. Doing something is way too hard. Avoiding it becomes second nature. But over time unresolved grief can become a ticking time bomb. A person begins to feel like they are going to explode. Avoiding you keeps them away from a path they don’t want to take. It becomes their primary focus.
Another reason people avoid grief is because they haven’t really been taught the right things to say. Not knowing what to say makes us uncomfortable. Avoiding uncomfortable feelings seems easier. If they are “unlucky” enough to run into you, they say things like “They are in a better place” or “You’ll feel better soon.” Not helpful statements to a griever but it’s what they have been taught. Eventually they convince themselves staying far away from anyone grieving is the best solution. Once again it becomes about them and not about you.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO DIFFERENTLY?
Face your own grief. You can’t be there for someone else who is grieving if you have your own issues with grief. This is especially true for parents of children who are grieving. If you address your own grief first, you are better equipped to help your children get through theirs. Begin to understand why you haven’t dealt with your grief. What can you do to address it? The Grief Recovery Method offers a structured action plan to help you do just that.
Be honest with a griever. Instead of avoiding griever, all you have to do is say “I just don’t know what to say.” An honest answer is better than crickets. Offering a hug without any words is even better. A hug can say it all. It makes a griever feel safe and not alone. Grief tends to do that to people. Makes them feel isolated. Avoiding them only makes it worse. As humans we need human-to-human body contact. In fact according to social worker Virginia Satir, we need at least 4 hugs a day to survive.
So the next time you know someone who is grieving, don’t avoid them. Offer them a hug. No words. Just a hug. It can change their world.
Sending you love, comfort and peace!