“Working through Grief,” Ensign, Mar. 2006, 71
All of us experience times when we mourn a loss or must reach out to others in need. For some, asking for help or extending sympathy comes easily, but many wonder what to say or do—sometimes doing nothing. As a licensed clinical social worker in the trauma and critical care units at a hospital, I recommend the following guidance for the bereaved and for those helping them through their grief:
Time. Be careful not to rush the grieving process, which varies for each person. If intense grief persists after eight weeks, preventing normal functioning, seek help from your bishop or through counseling or a support group at a local social services agency. Consider waiting up to a year before making big decisions, realizing that unexpected feelings of grief can surface for an undetermined amount of time.
Talk. In the days and months following a loss, the bereaved may want to share feelings with trusted friends or family members, who should listen and not try to fix everything. Offering genuine condolences of “I’m sorry” or “I care” is helpful. However, avoid trying to explain why something happened or saying, “I know how you must feel,” since explanations or seemingly insincere comments rarely console.
Touch. When people are experiencing a loss, it’s important that they tell someone if they need a hug. Also, for some people, having a pet for company can bring great comfort.
Tears. Cry, alone or with a friend, silent or aloud—whatever helps to release built-up frustration, grief, or anger. Many men are often reluctant to show their emotions, and some women worry that crying shows a lack of faith. Crying can be very helpful and should not be viewed as a weakness.
Allow yourself and those you comfort the time and understanding needed to work through the grieving process. Remember to combine your efforts with fasting, prayer, and studying the Savior’s teachings “that your burdens may be light” (Alma 33:23).
Michelle Hanks, Riverside Seventh Ward, Murray Utah North Stake