Continuing the series of “Public Services Announcements” regarding grief, here are the first 4:

#1:  Time does not heal all wounds (March 22, 2021)

#2:  When you lose someone you love it never goes away (April 3, 2021)

#3:  We can welcome our experience of grief without welcoming the loss itself (May 5, 2021)

#4: (When tragedy strikes…) There is no “right” thing to say (July 16, 2021)

Today I share PSA #5: Many of us want to talk about our loved one long after they have died.

I say “many” because grief like all things is complicated, personal and idiosyncratic. There are likely exceptions to this, but my personal experience, and largely that of those I connect with, is that the person who died is just under our breath. Especially if we were close to them (as with my children or the loss of a parent or close friend, a pet even.)

One of the challenges of losing a loved one is that there are no new memories to be made with that person. We have all the photos, videos, and mind’s eye memories of being with that person, that we will ever have. We can’t add to the library of our interactions with them so we have to re-visit the past when we want to connect with them, or our memories.

Whether a day, or a decade has passed since a loved one was lost by someone you care about, its ok to bring that person up. We are already thinking about them anyway. Try communicating something like “I know it has been a while since your Daughter died, but you must still miss her, what’s that like for you? Or “Where do those memories fit into your daily life”. Or is it too painful to think about?” And just listen.

The key element of any such conversation is authenticity. If you don’t want to know, definitely don’t ask because the discomfort on your end may be felt by the person you wish to support. But if you do want to know, or if you want to be present, ask questions from the heart, in ways that do feel comfortable.

Don’t worry about getting into a conversation that might be “difficult.” All you are really doing is opening the door for communication and letting your loved one know, that you know, that their grief is still part of them. Support from others decreases the isolation we can feel when we grieve. Allow the person to answer or decline any way they wish, and the rest will flow from there. No judgment, just presence.

Just because no new memories are being made, doesn’t mean we don’t still want to enjoy the ones we have. One thing you can do for someone you love who is grieving, is to create that opening for them to re-live or share their experiences. You can be a witness. It’s something tangible you can “do” to help them. So when you “wish” there is something you could do to help, know that there is.

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