October 13, 2019
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The Face of Grief

November 6th, 2012 by judytalks

When you look in the faces of people enduring loss, what do you see? I remember the face of a mother whose young daughter had just died. She stood on our porch, surrounded by neighbor women, unable to grasp what had happened. As we held her, I could see a blank stare give way to deep grief, and waited for the sobs to begin.

The loss of a person causes deep pain and a sense of isolation. When that loss is felt by the community, both the pain and the burden of recovery are shared but it isn’t always possible to detect the fact of grieving by simply looking at someone. Most of us are good at putting on masks, unable or unwilling to let our deepest feelings show. Though comfort and solace is needed and wanted, having to talk about our emotions is difficult. Even though you may not see the telltale signs of anguish, just knowing that something has happened may prompt you to offer condolences.

What should you say? Of course, a simple “I’m sorry” makes an immediate connection. Most grievers know that people are at a loss for words, but extending your sympathy helps bring them back into the world that seems so far away.

Grieving people have told me that they feel like reality is far away and they are unable to participate in what goes on around them. That feeling can last a long time. Any effort that reaches out and includes them is helpful, though they may not fully participate right away.

When you come face to face with someone grieving, say a few words of acknowledgment, perhaps taking their hand or giving a hug, and if you know them well enough, call a few days later and chat or extend an invitation. They may accept or not. The face of pain can come and go, but knowing you’re thought of helps the healing process. More openness in our society on the subjects of death and grief will ease the pain just a little for those coping with loss.

Judy

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