Simi Valley Hospital

Helping Others Cope With Loss

At some time or another all of us who are involved in health care are called upon to relate to people who suffer a loss. Sometimes it is from a distance and other times it is face to face. Just this afternoon I was walking down the hallway and I noticed a young lady crying. She said one of her friends was dying in County hospital, she needed help and support. What would you do?

Here are some things that you can remember when a loss has been suffered:

“Staying with another through their loss and grief is not a spectator event. It requires our full participation. We need to be actively learning about ourselves as we do this-what our strengths are we can call upon, and what our limits are that we must be fully aware of. We need to identify the ways we are called to grow in our roles as caring human beings. We need to open ourselves to the possibility that we will be changed by choosing to take this painful journey with others, just as they will be changed. One thing will not change. However much we give, we will also receive. However much we help, we will also be helped. That is not the reason we do what we do. But it is a wonderful benefit.” (excerpt from How Can I Help?)

Against this background here are a number of things that can be helpful in this journey.

  1. Acknowledge what has happened. Don’t side-step the painful reality, but in a sensitive manner let them know that you care about their loss. ” I know this has happened to you and you are in my mind.”
  2. Listen, listen, listen. Loss has come crashing into their lives and they need to share the story. “Tell me about what happened. I’d like to know.” Take time to listen.
  3. Respond in your own authentic way. Your tears mingled with theirs are more powerful than you know. Be there for them and avoid the cliches.
  4. Accept the other as he or she is. Don’t judge, be a friend.
  5. Offer to help, and make your offers specific. Don’t push but offer. “I’d like to bring a meal, would lunch or dinner on Tuesday be better for you?”
  6. Allow the other his or her privacy. Respect their own private space and private time. “Would you like some time alone?”
  7. Relate to the other as a whole person. Respond to them body, mind and spirit. Balance is of the essence here.
  8. Trust the other to lead you. “Allow the one living it” to set the pace and agenda.
  9. Radiate genuine hope. Journey with them, holding sensitively to their hope until they can hold it for themselves. Authentic hope if you please.
  10. Carry the other in your heart and soul. Pray for them and write to them.
  11. Open yourself to what this experience holds just for you. This is a two-way street; be open to it.
  12. Journey with the other in search for meaning. “Companioning” the other. Caring, day after day after day. Being there for the long haul as they make sense out of the painful.

May you and I provide this kind of care for those who have experienced a loss.