Grief is hard enough on our own account, but then there is the aspect of another’s grief and the support we would like to provide. It’s difficult to know how to support someone who may have no idea what support they need. Add to the complexity of this dynamic the facts of our own material; like what is it, really, we want to help for?
It is natural, in non-familial situations, to feel more than an arm’s length from being able to support, but wanting to support all the same. It can be confusing and frustrating.
We may even want to support when there is abundant support already. Or, we may see a lack of support and be motivated to help in some small way.
“What’s In Helping Them For Me?”
When we take the courage to ask ourselves, honestly, “What’s in it for me in helping this person?” we can at least become aware of the lack within us that their grief has revealed for our notice.
Grief is peculiar in these ways; it ripples out into others’ lives, including ours. What impact has their grief on us, personally? What does it reveal about our experience?
These questions are only of value if we answer them honestly.
Having made an attempt to understand why it is we wish to help, including what our experience-for-loss brings to the table, we are better positioned to be aware of any factors of self-motivation. Then we are able to be more genuinely caring.
Helping In An Impossible Situation
Grief may be the last frontier in the human concern for control; an unconquerable one.
We cannot control grief; it, to a major extent, controls us. We don’t like being controlled. So, grief involves pain, the best of which we can do is accept. But we cannot accept until we do our work in processing the grief. It’s a work involving much heartache.
Helping someone in their grief is about being fully armed in the knowledge of their limitations, and ours as helpers. There are no pat responses that work. Clichés miss the mark. Sometimes we may only sit silently. Only what the subconscious can feel is adequate. There may be no words, and few sentiments, which make the cut.
The specific limitations on a person in their grief paralyse their response and polarise their anger. Simple examples of their inability to cope confound, further, their inability to cope. Grief is a cesspool of frustration on the one hand and of despair on the other.
When we bear these facts in mind, the compassion in our empathy is heightened without pretence. We are more genuine and warmth becomes us.
Helping someone in their grief involves stripping ourselves of ideas to help. Only when we can see the impossibility in somebody else’s grief may we begin to help.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.