STEPS IN SUPPORTING GRIEF
Talking openly about grief and being supportive to those who are grieving doesn’t come naturally to most people, but not talking about it does come at a cost. People need to feel supported to be healthy, productive, and creative. Being prepared is crucial to establishing best practices and a healthier environment and community.
CREATE A SAFE CULTURE
Context matters. We live in communities with a particular culture and expectations. How we move forward after death and loss depends on the context and support system available to us. Those who are well supported and feel understood are able to move forward more healthily and easily. A person that has clear values and compassionately cares for others will be more productive and more successful because of the supportive environment.
LISTEN ALL THE WAY
Listening does not mean placating or checking your watch after a few minutes. Listening is a real act of service, a real gesture of support. Taking the time to listen and to hear someone tell their story, share how they are finding their way forward or how grief is impacting them, give space to share and laugh, and throw up their arms in despair is all key to successfully listening. It’s not about telling your story or sharing your opinion. It’s about creating the space and time to be present.
While it is easier to make assumptions than to take the time to ask, asking is the only way to know and understand what is really going on.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO FIX IT
Nothing is broken. Grief is a natural and normal response to loss and change. Your responsibility isn’t to make it better, but to care and support through it.
TRY TO UNDERSTAND
Grieving people want to feel understood and know that you “get it” and you can be patient with them as they find their way forward. Imagine a maze. If you jump in the middle and try to push someone forward you will likely get lost also. Instead, stay where you are and encourage exploration while being an understanding cheerleader. You don’t know how it feels, but be willing to learn by asking questions to understand.
BE WILLING NOT TO KNOW
More often than not, there are no answers. Clichés and euphemisms are seldom helpful. Instead, be willing to be uncertain. Grief and life-altering changes all affect people differently. No two people are the same.
THERE IS NO TIMELINE
Grief is cyclical and unpredictable. It is not contained by time so it requires your patience and willingness to bend the rules and rework expectations.
MODIFY YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Grief will challenge and limit what someone is capable of doing. Adapt to the grief and the grief will adapt its way back.
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
Grief is unpredictable. People who are grieving often don’t feel like themselves or see the way they are falling behind or unable to succeed as they have in the past. If you are prepared, you’ll be able to expect the unexpected.
Preparedness is essential for effectiveness. Having consistent routines makes a difference when the unexpected happens. By being prepared, you will feel empowered to provide the support that is needed when someone has experienced change or grief. It is not about knowing the right things to say, but having the infrastructure to provide the right support for your context. Without preparedness, grief will come at a cost.
In order to understand how it is going for the grieving person(s), schedule regular check-ins to discuss their needs, strategize solutions to temporary challenges, and assess if your practices are working.
Grief is uncontrollable. Don’t expect the grieving to be consistent, on target, fast-paced, or always mentally present. The environment that is created with patience will actually help a person find his/her footing again. Rushing them and/or creating consequences will diminish effectiveness.
Working regular hours or forcing a grieving person to fit into a mold or prescribed schedule may not be achievable or helpful to the team or employee. Allow for flexibility and a self-identified return to a routine. Maximize times of productivity and promote efficiency.
Grief creates chaos. A consistent environment with clear expectations helps a grieving individual anticipate and plan, helps those around them be more patient, and supports healthy grief management. Consistency helps establish a routine. But, don’t be rigid.
Evaluate practices often and remain prepared by having a conversation about personal culture(s) and practices regularly. Don’t wait until grief cripples before addressing it.
Please reach out if you need to talk.