Grief and Loss
Grief Help From a Family
An inexpensive, yet valuable offering to help a family while they are grieving is the ability to truly listen. You might say, “I know that!” Listening can actually be harder to do than it sounds. We are living in a society today where we are conditioned to the 10-second sound bite. We focus for a moment, then turn our attention elsewhere.
People who have experienced a loss often say that no one will listen to them. They do not feel heard. Quickly they learn to say “I’m fine” because “I’m fine” doesn’t make the listener uncomfortable. Grieving people want to tell their story. They need to be heard, they need grief support.
How does one become an effective listener?
Silence: Be okay with silence. Don’t be in a rush to fill in the empty spaces while people are giving you their story. Just be patient and listen.
Wait: It is often tempting when people are struggling to assimilate new information to give too much advice too quickly. Allow some space between advice/information giving to provide the family member a chance to voice their desires and needs.
Focus on the individual: In today’s world we are constantly being bombarded with stimulation that can result in overload. You might have to consciously remind yourself to put down the pen, fold your hands on your lap, use direct eye contact and relax.
Use key words: Let the family member know they are heard by saying, “I hear you”, or “What I hear you saying is…”, or “How hard it must be…” or even ask them, “Do you feel like you have been heard?”
Body language: A grieving person may not be aware consciously of your body language but it is conveyed nonetheless. Sitting with your arms crossed, leaning far back in your chair, or having your desk or a large table between you and the family member could convey the message that there is distance between you. That can be interpreted that you are not being an effective listener.
Perception: Since the bereavement are extra sensitive they often can tell if you are actively engaged in listening to them or if you are just being “nice” and trying to get them out the door. Perhaps many times in your career when dealing with grieving families you have had to check your frame of mind to see if you are in a receiving mode or just trying to be polite. Continue to monitor yourself. It will be worth it.
The simple act of listening to a grieving family member brings much comfort. One last thing you can do is make sure to give them your list of local resources that are specifically geared to listening to grieving individuals such as local therapists offering grief counseling, grief support groups, or grief message boards on the internet.
Are you looking for others with whom you can relate? Visit the Beyond Indigo forums to connect with others who are on their grief journeys.
© 2010 Kelasan, Inc.