Post by Maureen Pollard, MSW, RSW
When you’ve experienced the death of a loved one, one of the most difficult things you will go through is trying to find out what helps you adjust to the loss. This can be compounded when others around you don’t understand what you’re going through, and don’t know how to help you. Although you may not have much energy, and you may be reluctant to become a teacher, it may be just what your family and friends need to help you through your grief.
The concept of “pocket phrases” can be quite useful in helping others learn what you need as you grieve. These are statements that you practice ahead of time so that they come to you effortlessly in the moments when you are upset but still need to ask for someone’s help or understanding.
“That’s not helpful.” Usually, our friends and family are trying to help, however their actions may have the opposite effect. With practice, you can develop the ability to say this in a calm, confident voice that halts comments or behaviour that you find hurtful.
“Grief isn’t easy, but it is necessary.” Well-meaning people sometimes want us to move through grief quickly when that is just not possible. You can remind them that it’s normal to feel a full range of feelings after a loss and you don’t need to ‘cheer up’.
“I’m adapting. It takes time to adjust.” When someone in your circle of acquaintances asks how you’re doing, you can use this phrase to remind them that grief is a process. You can ask them directly to have patience with your intense feelings, the changes in your routines and at the same time let them know you’ll never be quite the same again.
“I’m not strong. I’m just doing what I must.” This phrase can be helpful when people praise your ability to function in routine tasks and situations. You may want them to understand that although you may look well on the outside, there’s still a whirlwind of emotion and distress raging unpredictably inside you.
“I like it when you say their name and we talk about them.” You can let people know they don’t have to be afraid to mention your loved one. If you want to share stories, and hear stories from others, you may need to give permission with a clear, direct statement such as this so that people aren’t afraid they will hurt you more by talking about them.
These sample statements can be a good starting point for developing your own useful “pocket phrases” to help teach the people in your life how to help you as you grieve. Remember that the more you practice the things you wish you could say, the easier it will become to pull them out in a peaceful and positive way when needed.
Jane – My Story
Jane shares her story about losing two of her grandparents just before the pandemic and the ways the pandemic has impacted her ability to process grief.
Jane – Loneliness while processing grief
Jane talks about grieving without her extended family because of the pandemic and how that’s impacted things like scattering ashes and having celebrations of life.
Jane – Struggling to process layers of grief
Jane talks about her experience navigating multiple losses in a short time and the impact the pandemic has had on that by adding even more multi-facitated layers of grief
Jane – What processing grief during the pandemic may look like
Jane talks about how the pandemic has postponed a lot of “firsts” without her grandparents that have impacted her experience of moving through grief.
Brenda and Dale – “Seeking Help”
Brenda and Dale discuss how seeing a counsellor helped them. They continue to grieve the death of their son by suicide.
Susan – “Bearing Witness”
Susan discusses why it’s OK to talk about death and how you want to die.
Susan – “Celebration”
Susan discuss her thoughts on why the process of dying shouldn’t be clinical.
Susan – “Crying”
Susan talks about crying, grieving and dying.
Susan – “Death and Grief Phobia”
Susan discusses dealing with the process of dying and grieving.
Susan – “Frontline caregivers”
Susan talks about how critical and wonderful frontline caregivers are and the importance of connecting with them.
Susan – “Hope”
Susan talks about being pragmatic about her life and hopeful for her daughter.