Remember that New Edition joint back in the day…? Can You Stand the Rain? *Singing loudly and off key* Sunny days- everybody loves them. Tell me, baby, can you stand the rain? Storms will come, this we know for sure. Can you stand the rain?….Love that song. However as I have gotten older and wiser, I realize the even greater beauty and sentiment of the song…the art of loving someone who is in pain or is experiencing grief.
Recently, I lost my beloved father. Not only has that experience taught me so much about moving on, but it has uncovered something that I never knew about most humans: we SUCK at consoling people who are grieving, whether it be death, illness, loss of job or divorce. I mean I can’t tell you the number of times I wanted to pimp slap some well-intentioned individual in the mouth for spouting off what they truly believe was some amazingly comforting sentiment. This experience made me ask the question of why we are so bad as human with grief, especially when we universally will experience it.
Further, I was interested in the role that grief and pain plays in the survival of relationships. For example, statistics show that the chances for divorce increase with the loss of a couples child. This is sad; it would seem like a heartbreaking loss X 2 for that to happen.
Then it dawned on me…part of why grief is hard to get through in a relationship is because most of don’t really understand grief, so much as we simply feel it. No one REALLY teaches us to understand grief and how to deal with it. This lack of understanding is what hurts relationships….not the grief. In order to help others and ourselves process grief, we must recognize the journey to recovering from grief…the famous Seven Stages.
THE SEVEN STAGES OF GRIEF:
1. SHOCK & DENIAL-
You will probably react with disbelief, denial, avoidance, and the shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. The disconnect is nature’s way of protecting you.
2. PAIN & GUILT-
As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. This step can NOT be avoided; you MUST experience the pain authentically. You should not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs. You may also experience feelings of guilt or remorse over things you did or didn’t do with your loved one. You will imagine the things you wish you had said and the things you wish you would have done.
3. ANGER & BARGAINING-
You feel anger, and you may lash out at loved ones. This is nature’s way of letting you release bottled up emotions. You may also have a spiritual experience where you ask, “Why me?
4. “DEPRESSION”, REFLECTION, LONELINESS-
Right when your loved one think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. Well-wishes and pep talks from others will not be helpful to you during this stage of grieving. During this time, you will TRULY experience the true magnitude of your loss; this depresses you. Isolation and reflection sets in and memories of the past become important.
5. THE UPWARD TURN-
You start adjust into life, your life becomes more peaceful and purposeful. Your depression symptoms are beginning to ebb.
6. RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH-
You begin to regain some control over your mind and emotions. You start making plans for your future. You begin to talk about what happened and start communicating with others in a way that let you release your pain.
7. ACCEPTANCE & HOPE-
You simply learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. This does not mean you are overjoyed and you may NEVER be who you were before but you are moving forward.
- Be careful in how you talk to a grieving person…You may be well-intentioned with those Bible scriptures but sometime a person isn’t ready to deal with God just yet. Know the stage of grief. Sometimes they are still in the bargaining stage or they can even be a little angry with Him at the moment. Use caution with telling people what God wants…most likely, they are already talking to God. Grief, in most cases, is a very personal spiritual journey.
- Please refrain from using “logic” with a grieving person. When the head hurts, you can offer someone an aspirin, but when their heart hurts it is not that simple. The head responds to logic; the heart does not.
- Learn to shut up. Sometimes the best thing you can say is, “I am sorry.” Then zip your lips and offer tissues and strong shoulders. You don’t have to fix it. You can’t. So be quiet and be there.
- DO NOT TELL SOMEONE TO GET OVER IT. This is the worse thing to do. DO YOU NOT THINK THEY WOULD IF THEY COULD? Who really enjoys being in pain? Just remember that grief is a journey, not a destination. We all grief differently. Another person’s grief is never about you.
- It is okay to simply say to someone, “I don’t know what to say or do with your pain right now, but I am here if you need me.” Sometimes, that is all that can be said.
Two key things to keep in mind when dealing with grief is COMMUNICATION and HONESTY.
At the end of the day, New Edition was right….”On a perfect day” we can count on people, but the true test is when it is time to weather the storm? Make sure you can stand the rain….