Be Patient With People Who Are Grieving

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Loss affects everyone differently. One thing’s for sure though, when someone summons up the courage to confront and move through grief we shouldn’t expect the process to be fast or smooth. And we shouldn’t fall victim to rating the severity of the loss on our own subjective scales.

Even though as sympathizers and confidants most of us have the best of intentions at heart, before long it’s easy to grow exasperated and to start to feel like there’s something wrong with the griever for his or her inability to get over it and move on. At first we’re able to occupy and share that grief space pretty well but as time goes by we get tired of hearing the same refrain over and over. Why? Because we’re all narcissists to one extent or another and as soon as we’re ‘over it’, as soon as we’re feeling better about things, we can’t help but use our own state of mind as an unconscious barometer signaling that the other should be ‘over it’ too.

It’s important to stress here that we all try to make sense of our lives by telling stories, and this process of storytelling is never a one and done affair. Especially with grief and other traumas the story must be told and retold many times. Through this telling and retelling the story starts to lose some of  its power over us as we take power over it. When people are grieving a loss, whether it’s a breakup, a death in the family, or anything else, the expectation should be that they’ll need to rehash their story over and over again. Although it might get excruciatingly boring for us it doesn’t get boring for them. Most important to keep in mind is that what they’re doing is not abnormal, obsessive, or dysfunctional.

So be patient with people who are grieving. Because one day, before long, when a profoundly personal loss strikes at your heart, you’ll need them to be patient with you too. If you’re really present for them and willing to listen to the same story without growing frustrated or judgmental they’ll probably return the favor in your time of need, when suddenly it’s you who needs that space to process. And processing means telling and retelling the same basic story many times.