In an article on the key to resolving grief, writer Lani Leary, begins by acknowledging that grief doesn't ever go away completely, because loss never ends. However, Leary proposes that the key to "softening" or "transitioning" grief is having it recognized, validated, and, in Leary's words, "blessed."
The article is worth a read on its own. I think many readers will find themselves nodding in agreement with Leary's observations. The most valuable pieces of advice from Leary, are in helping friends, family, and health professionals know what they actually need to do to be the kind of supportive, caring people that grieving families need to validate their grief.
According to Leary,
Validation sounds like
- supporting the bereaved's perspective;
- listening "between the lines" for what is and is not said;
- listening for symbolic language and what it means to the person;
- asking open-ended questions; clarifying what you have heard;
- and asking to hear their story as many times as they want to tell it.
Validation looks like
- direct eye contact;
- gestures of affirmation such as nodding;
- appropriate gentle touch;
- and a posture of leaning toward, rather than away, from the bereaved.
So often, people genuinely want to help their loved ones when they are hurting. The problem is knowing what to do and how to do it. Concrete suggestions like this are rare, and well worth considering. Grief cannot be "fixed" or "cured," but it can be given room to run its course. It's hard to listen without comment, to affirm sadness, and to be patient when a loved one needs to tell you their story for the twelfth time, but if you can do it, you'll be doing more for your loved one than you can imagine.
More Resources for Friends and Family:
What Can Friends and Family Do for a Woman after a Miscarriage?
Should I Encourage My Grieving Friend to Talk About the Pregnancy Loss?
Before You Talk to Someone Who Has Miscarried
Photo © Nap Apolinario, Jr.