When you first hear that someone has suffered loss, you want to help. The challenge is that most of the time, we miss the target. I want to help you hit the mark every time when it comes to helping those who are hurting. The truth is, most of the time the information we have about grief and loss is not effective.
If we are going to hit the target, it’s necessary to look at the tools we have to help us accomplish that. Imagine a target—a bulls eye. The most effective tool created to hit that target would likely be a compound bow. Reality is that not an overwhelming number of us could really use one of those to hit the bulls eye. I personally am not familiar with that instrument; although it might be the best one to use. But because we are not experienced with the bow, we might try to use other, less effective tools, such as a spoon. Most of us know how to use a spoon, but it’s very unlikely it would do much good in hitting the bulls eye. Perhaps a hammer would be better. I know how to use a hammer. I could hit the bulls eye with it. It might take a couple of tries, but in the end, I it’s very likely I could do more damage than good with a hammer. It applied more force than what was really necessary.
I don’t want you to stand back after working with someone and say, “I wonder if I did more damage than I did good.” I want you to know how to help those who are hurting. My guess is that you have love, compassion and a desire to help; you need to know that love, desire and compassion are not enough. You have to have the right tools and the right information to truly help.
Throughout this series of articles, I am going to give you some tools to use that have proven extremely effective to hit the mark when you want to help other people who are hurting. These probably won’t be tools that you are used to using.
We Do Not Know What We Do Not Know
The struggle is—we do not know what we do not know. What we do know is what we have been taught by well-meaning people. We assume is correct information, but the truth is all that information is NOT correct. We have been socialized to understand grief in an ineffective and incorrect way.
Grief is a matter of the heart, not the head. In our society we have been socialized to intellectualize grief. Without even realizing what we are doing, we can intellectualize grief when working with someone. Perhaps a person has lost a spouse due to long term illness. We might say:
• “At least he is no longer suffering.”
• “He’s in a better place.”
• “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28 NKJV).
And while those are all true statements, it doesn’t help the griever who is dealing with heart emotions.
So, why do we intellectualize it? We intellectualize grief because we don’t know what to do with their feelings. The emotions makes us feel awkward. We need to learn how not to be intimidated with the appropriate expression of their emotions. Remember, grief is not a matter of the head, but a matter of the heart.
Licensed Professional Counselor
National Trainer for The Grief Recovery Institute®
Grief Recovery Specialist
A well-loved speaker, counselor and Grief Recovery Specialist, Bobbie has been guiding individuals successfully for over 20 years.