If Someone Tells You How You Should Grieve, Forgive Them

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Among all the things we learn in life, during great and sad times alike, we learn new skills. Yet, nothing truly prepares us for the loss of a loved one, and the grief that accompanies our loss.

I believe strongly that no one can tell another person “how” to grieve. There’s no set formula, action plan or knowledge found in any set resource better than experiencing it for ourselves. Just as each of us has a unique set of fingerprints, we also have unique reactions to death. It takes time to recover from loss, and there’s no magic formula to resolving grief. Love and time both help, as we all know.

Often, well-meaning people say all the wrong things to you after a death occurs. Most of the time, they do so out of love. Or, they don’t want you to suffer “too long” or linger in the past “too much,” so they share their ideas for how you shouldn’t hurt and they try to tell you when to stop grieving.  They really should not do that, because they’re not you and can’t predict what you need, or when. Forgive them if they say something that makes you angry; they are unaware they’re not helping.

I do not assume, just because I help families and friends face deaths every day, that I am any more qualified than your minister or neighbor to offer solutions on “how to grieve.” But our family can guide you through the process of funeral services, plans and choices for visitation and burial or cremation. That’s a start.

We do recommend pre-planning for the future, while your decision making is logical so your emotions don’t override what you can afford, and you have time to consider and discuss choices with your loved ones. We never push or force you into choices, at any time. There is a financial savings to secure arrangements at today’s prices. When you do, you remove potential grief later of “how are we going to pay for all this?” as it’s already paid for (by the month), long before you need it.

Grief is a universal constant. Throughout all the stages of our lives, we learn to cope with loss. It may be as children, we find ourselves parting company with best friends from elementary school, when one family moves away. We’re sad. Then we might lose grandparents and parents far too young in life, on and on. We are sad, but we don’t yet know what we feel or how we should feel.

We face other kinds of grief in our adult lives; we might lose a job, we might lose our health, we can lose a business that we’ve spent 20 years building. No one is immune. What we do have is our approach to loss—facing it head-on, and accepting that we have a choice to let the loss define us, or we get stronger with each step forward we take. The choice is ours.

We know how we feel when we are walking through grief. But what about being able to recognize grief in others? If you and friends were gathered around a TV set this weekend for the football playoffs, or you were at Reed Arena for the basketball games, or whether you were sitting in a sanctuary full of people in a church service, or you were in line in the grocery store. You were sitting or standing right next to someone who was grieving. Thing is, you would not have been able to see it, if you didn’t know that person and know what they were going through. We all hide our grief, with skill, right? We don’t want anyone to see us in pain, as it might make them, or us, uncomfortable.

In my years of experience, serving families and friends who’ve lost loved ones, grief is a natural part of life’s growing process. It’s something everyone goes through and no one is immune. What we can do is prepare and practice for the time when grief might occur. As we reach out to people who are encountering their own grief, be aware that they might want to have your company and time very much, but not be able to say it.

One thing you can do to help them is to just initiate spending time together; call them and say you’re in the neighborhood and ask if they’d like to meet you for lunch or dinner or maybe volunteer to bring a meal over and watch a game on TV, or other activity.

We say it all the time, without even thinking, “I’m here for you, just call when you need anything.” Or they say, “Please let me know if there’s anything I can do” and they do mean it when they say it. But, when you’re in the middle of grieving, you are often too shy to ask for help, even from people who have volunteered to “be there” for you. I’ve seen it often; so many times, our friends don’t want to impose on us while we’re grieving and in other cases, we don’t know exactly what to do.

Just being there, doing the simplest things with them, going to a movie, going out to eat, or the simplest of times shared together mean so very much. If a friend has lost an adult parent who’s been living in a senior care facility, cleaning out their loved one’s room after the passing is one of the most difficult situations they face. Don’t let them do it alone, if they don’t have family members to help them with it. Volunteer, rather than wait to be asked.

When it’s your turn to grieve and people reach out to you, the natural reaction we see again and again, is to want to sort of shut down and not be around “a lot of people,” as we never know when tears will flow and we don’t want to be embarrassed. Handling grief cannot be accomplished by seminars.

It takes time and many times, our trusted clergy members are the first resource we seek out. There are also several churches in town who offer support groups for the loss of loved ones. Hospice Brazos Valley frequently offers valuable seminars, one of which is “Holidays without You,” to get you through those “firsts.”

One of the things we’ve found church families so wonderful at doing is having members on their equivalent of “Caring Ministries” send cards to the surviving family member(s), marking the occasion of a loved one’s birthday, or the one-year anniversary of their passing. If you’ve lost a loved one in the past five years, chances are very good that if a stranger asked you, “When did your loved one die?” you would be able to say the exactly month, day, and year, and what day of the week it was, for the visitation, the funeral service, and burial or cremation.

If you don’t have a church home or a longtime clergy member who knows what you’re going through, we are aware of the seminars and support groups here in town available to everyone. We’ll walk beside you during those days as you need us, and think of us first if you need to just ask a question about how to handle a decision you’ve not made before. It’s another reason we encourage pre-planning your final affairs as we begin our dialog with you early, understand your wishes and gives you time without pressure to consider all your options.

Life, death, grief, and recovery are natural processes of our daily lives. No one person is as wise as “all of us” are. Please consider Callaway-Jones then, not as grieving experts, but as your friends who will help guide you through the paths to your healing.

It just takes time to get through grief, so if someone errs in telling you that you “should be getting on with your life,” or “it’s time to stop grieving now and be strong,” or “put the past behind you and look ahead,” please forgive them if it hits you the wrong way. Everyone means well and they do their best to offer their comfort to those they care about, and you are one they care for and about.

Time heals. Faith heals. Love heals.

Cody D. Jones ‘02

Owner & Community Member