Life is tough. Our hearts get hit, again and again.
We get battered with disappointment, estrangement, abandonment, rejection, break-ups, illness, disabilities, and death. Grief is familiar to most of us.
Fundamentally, life is about relationships. It makes sense then that people around us will have great influence and impact during times of loss and pain, one way or another.
Here are five important people you will meet in your grief journey.
- The hyper-critical judge.
These people compare and evaluate. You’ll recognize their voice easily. “Be strong. Get over it. Pull yourself together. Move on.”
Hyper-critical judges don’t like tears. They pick you apart, bit by bit. They’re discouraging. They can kill your heart. They’re toxic. Avoid them like the plague.
If you must interact with them (family and co-workers, for example), put on your armor first. Don’t give them access to your heart. Quick to point out your faults, they ignore their own. They deal with your issues as a smokescreen to hide theirs.
When the hyper-critical judge shows up, breathe deeply, protect your heart, and let them pass on by.
- The well-meaning relative, friend, or co-worker.
These folks want to help but don’t know how. Thinking they need to say something, they stammer out platitudes. “At least they’re not suffering anymore.” At least they’re in a better place.” “At least you had them as long as you did.” “At least…”
Chances are your life is well-populated with these well-meaning people. Keep your expectations low. They can’t understand. They’re trying, but they can’t get to where you are.
When they say unhelpful things, release them quickly. If you can, smile and forgive. Relate to them as you want to, but it’s probably wise not to entrust them with the tender parts of your soul right now.
- The fixer.
These people are convinced they know what you should do. They don’t enter your grief with you, but they’re full of ideas on how to fix it. “You need to get out more.” “This works, so you need to do it.” “Go to a support group.” “You need counseling.”
Fixers tell you what to do and then disappear, only to reappear later with more advice you haven’t asked for. They’ll share their self-styled, fix-it-quick wisdom anywhere – restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores, hospitals, coffee shops, street corners, clothing stores, churches, sporting events, etc. Fixers are everywhere, and they have an answer for everything.
Some fixers have good hearts. Your pain distresses them. They don’t know how to meet you in your grief, so they pull out their magic wand to whisk the pain away. Be merciful and forgiving. There’s some fixer in all of us.
You don’t need fixers at present. If possible, don’t let their darts of advice penetrate too far.
- The safe person.
Safe people are amazing.
They meet you where you are. They enter your grief and exist with you there, even if it’s only for a few moments. They have no agenda other than supporting you.
They don’t try to fix. They don’t have magic-wand advice. They don’t pretend they didn’t see you in the store. They aren’t terrified by pain and suffering.
Safe people are great listeners. They know that words are overrated. They possess an ability to hear not only your words but your heart. Compassion exudes from them.
How do you find them? Be a safe person yourself. Safe people are magnets for each other.
- The fellow griever.
Grief is lonely, but the road of loss is well traveled and densely populated.
Permeated with obstacles, this road winds, curves, climbs, falls, and often doubles-back on itself. Some are quite familiar with this terrain. They have traveled here often and know the emotions, challenges, and frustrations well.
These fellow travelers “get it.” They have allowed grief to cultivate compassion rather than bitterness. Capable of embracing and caring for your heart, they can be treasured companions on this precarious path.
Fellow grievers are around you right now – in support groups, online grief forums, and other venues frequented by those whose worlds have been altered by loss. Already on the grief journey, they can be wonderfully supportive.
People will make all the difference.
People will have a massive impact on you in times of loss. Avoid hyper-critical judges who will only add to your pain. Be aware of friends, relatives, or co-workers who mean well but can’t provide the support you need. Watch out for fixers who won’t take your grief seriously. Learn to recognize safe people and fellow grievers who can enter your pain and become hope-giving companions.
Take your heart seriously. Grieve well. You’re more important than you know.
Award-winning author, speaker, and grief specialist Gary Roe is a compassionate and trusted voice in grief-recovery who has been bringing comfort, hope, encouragement, and healing to hurting, wounded hearts for more than 30 years. Click here to get a free excerpt of his new book, Comfort for Grieving Hearts. For more information visit www.garyroe.com.