This week I wanted to take a moment and talk about how to receive support in your grief. I know that a lot of you have heard the phrase “meet them where they are” when practicing how to support those within your community. I have decided to take that phrase and flip it on us, the ones who are receiving the support; the griever.
Instead of saying “meet them where they are", say “meet them where I am”.
A lot of times as grievers it’s hard to receive the support you ACTUALLY want. I know in my personal experience I have found myself trying to mute or lessen the emotions and waves I’m moving through in order to make my supporter feel more comfortable or less “sad” for me. There is a weird thing that happens when you experience loss, you gain a lot of empathy. All of a sudden you start really seeing the emotions of those around you and those emotions start to download inside of you. I think a broken heart tends to let more in due to its vulnerability. It can make us feel burdensome or even more disconnected from those closest to us because we don’t want to be a source of discomfort in daily interactions, but we also know that we need support in our pain.
I have some good news though, this can change and it’s as simple as saying to yourself “meet them where I am”. In order to do this you need to make time to dive into your being and truthfully see how you are doing. What is the good, the bad and the ugly of your grief, right now? Once you understand where you are, you’ll be able to communicate to yourself how you want to be received and set boundaries on the interactions of your supporters.
The best thing about this is that your community really wants to support you, but most of the time they truly don’t know how. You get to give them a guide that states: “How to meet me where I am”. You are not in the position to be constantly meeting others where they are while you are actively in grief and that is OKAY. Letting go of that responsibility in your relationships for the time being will allow you the space to be held authentically. We aren’t here to make them feel better about our grief; we are here to be SEEN and HELD in our grief.
Here are some ways you can redirect a supporter in a conversation about your grief:
If they ask: “How have you been holding up?”
You can say: “I am ____, and I appreciate you seeing me and my grief in this space right now.”
If they ask how you are and you don’t want to let them in, you can say:
“I am really not in the space to open up right now, but I appreciate you checking in”
There will also be plenty of conversations where people will use really intense words like: “devastating” “traumatic” “life shattering”, when talking about YOUR grief and loss and that can be immensely triggering. If this is happening you can say: “This conversation is bringing me to a space I wish to not be in. Thank you for seeing my grief, but I don’t want to talk about it any further”.
Having the language to support you in the process of being supported is tremendously helpful. I suggest writing some responses to recent conversations you had with people about your loss and see if changing your response made you feel more in control of the support you wanted to receive.
Alongside this way of creating boundaries in your support, make sure you are constantly feeling authentically seen by a person who can relate to your experience of loss. It’s okay to only connect deeply with one dear friend or family member instead of your whole group of friends or family. You can respectfully deny people who you truly know they aren’t the support you want or need.
Sometimes, less is more.
The goal is to protect our broken hearts, but simultaneously receive the healing support we deserve and need in our grief. Accepting everyone’s support can do more damage than heal. It’s okay to be critical on the support you receive; you deserve the best and so does your grief. I love you all.
~ Ingrid ~