Sunday, June 5, 2016

Saying "I am Sorry"" is not Sufficient: Speaking to a Grieving Heart

I am not a trained medic.  But I have had enough training in basic first aid to be able to instigate a few life saving techniques.  I know what to do if someone has a gaping injury that is causing profuse bleeding. All of us should possess such basic skills.  It might save someone’s life. Are we skilled in a similar manner when it comes to emotional first aid? I am thinking about someone whose heart is bleeding profusely.

I have several friends that are grieving this weekend. All of them have lost loved ones in recent years. In at least two cases, the loss occurred in the past week or two.  Their hearts are bleeding. Perhaps I should say: “I am sorry for your loss.”  That’s a kind thing to say.  And it’s better than some of the insensitive things that people are capable of communicating. Would I say that to a person bleeding on the side of the road in the immediate moments following an accident?  “Man, I am sorry you are losing so much blood. The professionals are on their way though.” 

I have a suggestion. It involves life-saving emotional first aid for the grieving person. If you knew the deceased person, tell your favorite story about them.  Bring up meaningful memories. Tell about an amusing experience with that individual. And most of all, tell their family WHY you loved them so much. Don’t hold back.  Be expressive even if you are not the touchy-feely type!

You won’t cure the wound.  But you will stop the emotional bleeding. The person you are speaking to will treasure your words forever. You may share something about their loved one that they were not previously aware of.

The greatest insult to a grieving person is to forget the person they lost. Speak freely. Don’t be afraid. Use the deceased person’s name!  And by all means, don’t just leave your friend on the side of the road to grieve alone. It’s a lonely journey. 

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