Time Heals All Wounds?

Listen to this obituary

Last time we talked about four things to expect in grief counseling and recovery, and today we finish the list.

Principle 5: Provide time to grieve.

When death comes calling, it takes time for the cut cords to heal that have bound us together. Healing is a gradual process. Quite often, there is at least one member of the family that is on a different grieving schedule than the rest and it may become evident, in their desire to rush the memorial service or postpone the memorial service, reduce the length of the memorial service or do away with it altogether. COVID has affected our grieving timeframes and customs.

Principle 6: Interpret “Normal Behavior.”

After a significant loss, many people feel like they are going crazy. But who gets to decide what is “normal behavior?” I contend that “normal” varies from family to family and person to person. The “abnormal behavior” may result from the fact that you have not sustained a major loss before (at least not in the recent past.)

Principle 7: Allow for individual differences.

People do not make all their living decisions in the same way; they do not all die the same way and they don’t all grieve the same way.  We shouldn’t expect that to happen, and the funeral home and the experienced officiant knows this — so no two funerals are exactly alike. However, this may be a difficult thing for a grieving family to accept when one family member deviates from the rest.

Principle 8: Provide continuing support.

Certain intervals of time, as well as ritualistic behaviors being repeated, provide us clues as to the lack of progress in a person’s grief recovery. Deaths during the holidays may forever mark a holiday with gloom. Sometimes we’ll notice on Facebook that someone writes something like, “My mother died one year ago today!” That is a perfectly normal thing to do, but IF this habit continues year after year, it may indicate unfinished grief. The first year may well be the hardest.

Principle 9: Examine an individual’s coping style.

How has Joe handled other losses in his life? When Sally gets upset, has she always wanted to talk about it, or does she clam up? Not all coping strategies are OK. Some people turn to illegal drugs. Some people refuse to look at photos of the deceased or refuse to keep anything around that would remind them of the deceased. Healthier coping mechanisms should be explored and adopted.

Principle 10: Know when it is time to refer.

When you find yourself or someone you love being stuck in their grief recovery, it is time to seek help. We do pretty well when we have a bleeding body part or dangling limb, but we often are slower to see a specialist when the crisis is in our grief.

Picture of Doug Greenway

Doug Greenway

These blog articles are written by the retired minister and former educator and counselor, Doug Greenway. He'd love to hear from you with your comments, questions, or suggestions for future topics. You may reach Doug at doug_greenway@yahoo.com.

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