I thought I knew everything there was to know about grief. After all, I’d faced some terrible losses by my early thirties. And yet my mom’s death really shook me. The grief and sense of loss was devastating and I found it incredibly hard to pull myself together that first year.
From my experience, I’ve learned that every loss is different and one loss doesn’t necessarily prepare you for the next. Unlike other life experiences, the more practice you have doesn’t make you any more competent at coping nor does it make it easier. Grief isn’t like any other life event. It doesn’t matter how many times you go through it; each time is unique and each loss leaves a different void in your life.
That’s just one good reason to never say to the bereaved, “I know how you feel.” Because you can’t possibly know how someone feels; just because you lost a mother, a child, or a spouse, your loss was unique to you. None of us knows the personal history or relationship that’s part of the loss and grieving process.
Each of us grieves in our own time and in our own way. And if you are to heal, you must fully grieve. It’s hard to see someone in so much pain and I think that’s the reason many people shy away from the bereaved. But you can’t hurry someone through the mourning process. What you can do is be a friend. Stay the course, listen when they need to talk, and remain by their side. Isn’t that what you’ll want someone to do for you?
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store. Click here to order.