It’s vital when working with those who are hurting to remember grief is not a matter of the heart.
When someone is expressing their emotions and you don’t know what to do; you really don’t have to do anything.
• Let them cry.
• Have tissues available, but don’t offer it to them. If they want to use tissues, they can.
• Most importantly, don’t give them the impression that their tears are bad.
If the tears are running down their face; it’s okay. Let them come. If you have tears too because your heart is touched, let your tears go too. We’ve been trained to maintain our composure, but you are instrumental in healing when you and those you’re working with let feel the emotion that grief brings.
It’s time to go counter to culture. Have you ever thought about these things; how we have been socialized? In our society—let’s look at how we talk about death. Do you say, “He died last week?” Most usually we use softer phrases:
• He passed on.
• He expired.
• He has gone to heaven or went to be with the lord.
Often it’s as if death, or the fact that he has died is somewhat off limits to talk about. Most of us have been socialized that feeling sad is bad. We’ve received a “Don’t feel bad message since childhood. Most of us received this message in elementary school. Maybe you experienced a fight on the playground or with your friend on the bus? You tell your mom, The tears start coming down and Mom says, “Don’t feel bad. Don’t cry; have a cookie and you’ll feel better.” The message is clear—those sad feelings are inappropriate.
Truthfully, you don’t feel any better with the cookie. You just feel different. We’ve all been socialized that it’s not appropriate to feel bad or sad, so we run to the refrigerator or pantry and eat the whole bag of chocolate chip cookies, a brownie or go out for a pizza.
I seriously doubt you’ve ever heard someone say, “Don’t feel good.” We would never say, “Don’t be happy. Let’s look at something that will take that happiness away.” We have trained ourselves to avoid, stuff, to feeling sad and bad? We don’t know what to do with your sadness. It makes us feel uncomfortable. When you’re working with someone who is hurting, it’s not about you.
Some feelings are wonderful, positive and to be preferred; others are labeled as bad or negative. When we think of something positive we feel joy, happiness, or love; yet we’ve all experienced times when love misdirected have had horrible consequences. It’s not the feelings that are positive or negative. It’s what you do with those feelings.
For example, anger can have a negative attached to it, but if you think about it there is a lot of energy resulting from anger that produces positive outcomes. I’ve got the cleanest house after being angry. MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) is just one of the many organizations that were created out of feelings of anger.
The Taste Buds of Life
Emotions aren’t positive are negative—they just are. Emotions are the taste buds of life. You go to Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, you’ll discover some flavors are more palatable and some you don’t care as much about. Maybe you don’t like sour tastes, or the texture of some kinds of food. Our emotions are like a buffet. As we see and experience emotions, the more we understand just how important they really are. It’s what you do with them that count.
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.