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Coping With Loss

At some time or another all of us 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. Sometimes it is expected. But other times, it is sudden and traumatic. Even when we know it is coming, death always catches us off guard and leaves us reeling and in need of support.

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 choosing to take this painful journey with others, just as they will be changed, will change us. 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?, James E. Miller)

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

  1. Acknowledge what has happened. Don’t avoid the person or side-step the painful reality, but in a sensitive manner let them know that you care about their loss. ” I’m so sorry to hear about your father’s death.”
  2. Listen, listen and listen. Loss has come crashing into their world 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 clichés.
  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. Trust the other to lead you. “Allow the one living it” to set the pace and agenda.
  8. Radiate genuine hope. Journey with them, holding sensitively to their hope until they can hold it for themselves.
  9. Carry the other in your heart and soul. Pray for them and contact them regularly.
  10. Open yourself to what this experience holds just for you. This is a two-way street; be open to it.
  11. Journey with the other in search of meaning, caring day after day after day. Be there for the long haul as they make sense out of this painful journey.

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