Grievers Long for Someone to Listen

Tan puppys sweet face resting on concreteThe most common complaint and disappointment I hear from grievers is that no one will allow them to talk about their loved one who died — or to talk about their loss.

Grievers need to talk! People around them are uncomfortable bringing up the subject, or they’re afraid they will upset the person and cause them to cry. It’s okay! The griever is already upset, and if he or she happens to cry while talking, that’s okay, too. Talking and crying are healthy and helpful for someone who is grieving. If anyone starts to cry, just be compassionate. Hugs are comforting, too.

If friends and family members understand how crucial it is for grievers to have someone to talk to, perhaps they will be more willing to ignore their own discomfort and encourage the griever to talk.

Please don’t shy away — I’m not suggesting a constant, endless commitment. The griever and the listener must be considerate of each other for this to work.

Sometimes listening is the most compassionate thing you can offer your loved one. You don’t have to solve their problems or even say anything profound. Just be there, be loving and kind, and listen.

If you do this, you will be giving a griever a priceless gift.

© 2011 Judy Brizendine

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6 Responses to “Grievers Long for Someone to Listen”

  1. Vicky says:

    Dear Judy, I think this is so true.

    I think at the very beginning we are given the opportunity to talk about the loss of our loved one, but this seems to diminish fairly quickly. We are then left to get on with it.

    For me, this is why bereavement support groups are so valuable: its time and space to talk about our loved ones, in amongst others wishing to do the same.

    • admin says:

      I agree with you, Vicky. People seem to be more available and willing to listen at first; however, before long, life intervenes and other things take priority. If someone else has not experienced a significant loss, they cannot understand the needs of a griever. They expect that the grieving process should be over much more quickly than it is, so they sometimes do not even realize what is going on or where the griever is in his or her grief journey. Sometimes what appears to be insensitivity is actually a lack of understanding.

      I heartily recommend participating in a grief-support group if it is available, but in many areas, such groups do not exist. Grief-support groups are a wonderful, loving place to share your loss without the fear of being rejected or feeling unwelcome. My experience with grief-support groups has been extremely positive, and not only did I learn what to expect during grief, but I found people who understood what I was going through and were not upset if I started to cry.

  2. Thanks for posting this Judy. People like me, who have suffered multiple loses, really need to tell their grief story. A small group of close friends understood this in 2007 when I lost four family members, including my elder daughter. My husband and I received hundreds of cards and so many bouquets the house looked like a flower shop. Within a few weeks, however, this support faded. But my close friends continued to ask questions that prompted responses from me. They gave me the gift of listening then and continue to give it to me now. Judy Tatelbaum, in her book “The Courage to Grieve” asks mourners to make something good from grief and I have tried to do this. A professional writer for decades, I turned to what I knew best, and five grief resources have come from my grief experience. Whether it is a diary, journal, articles, stories, poems, or books, writing is a way to tell one’s grief story. Today I have a new story, a happy story, and am living a new life.

    • admin says:

      Harriet, you are a blessed woman to have such loving and supportive friends! Unfortunately, I fear that you’re in the minority — and that’s why I have written about this subject several times lately. I hope to help raise awareness of this important need, and that by understanding more about grief, we’ll be able to better support each other. Judy Tatelbaum’s book is an excellent one, and I’ve tried to do exactly what you’ve tried to do. Writing (or journaling) is an excellent tool for anyone to face their grief and work through the pain to healing. Even if someone is not a writer, or thinks they cannot write, they can still sit down and put onto paper whatever is on their mind and in their heart – and they will taking a positive step toward healing. I celebrate what you have done to help others by writing from your experience, and I rejoice that you have taken the pain of loss, and out of it, created a fulfilling new life! Like me, I would bet you are now a stronger, more compassionate, and more insightful person because of your grief journey. I’m so glad you shared part of your story here!

  3. Judy Strong says:

    Listening is certainly one of the most important – and often unmet needs- of grievers. People don’t want to hear of sadness and pain, and they want to make us feel better, which they can’t do. There’s also the prevailing idea that grievers can begin to move forward in a matter of months. In my articles, and in talking with people, I address the fact of just listening, in hopes that our society will get better at helping one another with support and comfort. Thank you for this important reminder, especially at this time of year.

    • admin says:

      Thank you, Judy, for also writing about grief — and helping others to understand what is important and how we can help each other. Thank you, too, for visiting my blog and taking a look!