Task of Mourning
By Rebecca Holt
By Rebecca Holt
Recently a friend of mine asked me the question: How do I help someone experiencing grief? The answer is complex because there is no magic word or action that will take their pain away. But what you can do, is stand by them in their grief and walk with them through their pain. So often times, we want to help people who are in pain. We want to provide words to comfort or a solution. When we try to shift someone away from their pain we are often distracting them from the experience of grief.
Grief is an emotion of pain. It is often expressed through mourning which is an action verb. It is a task we work on. Allowing someone a safe space to feel what they need to feel is the greatest gift we can provide. Grief can be exhausting. It is an emotion many people feel inside but never express because how people respond. Often times when talking with someone who is mourning I hear things like, “I feel like I bring others down when I talk about the loss” or “I know they are tired of hearing about my pain”. People who are grieving will put on a mask to hide their authentic emotion because the pain feels like too much for others. Avoid saying things such as “I know how you feel” or “They are in a better place”. Those phrases often minimize an individual’s grief. You might try saying “How are you?” or “You don’t have to be strong right now. I can be here with you.”
Most people are familiar with Mary Kubler Ross’ five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. I feel like those are helpful emotions to be aware of. They are not experienced in linear way. They can wash over you like a high tide many years after the loss. In addition to the stages of grief. I reference the Task of Mourning by J. William Worden. The task include:
Task 1: To Accept the Reality of the Loss.
Task 2: To Process the Pain of Grief.
Task 3: To Adjust to a World Without the Deceased.
Task 4: To Find an Enduring Connection With the Deceased in the Midst of Embarking on a New Life.
These task are an outline of the actions we take in our grieving state to move through the pain. The goal is not to eliminate pain or anger. You have a right to feel the emotions. Adjusting is a way for us to be present in a different reality and find ways to honor the person we have lost. Whether you are dealing with your own grief or supporting someone who is experiencing grief. Know that allowing yourself or others to be validated in their emotions is one of the most helpful things you can do.