This is dedicated to all you supporters. With love!
The ones who are often overlooked because the focus is on the griever.
Because we are hard-wired to focus on pain points, and people in pain, the people who are cheerleading, holding space for others, can be left by the wayside.
If you have an undeveloped energy centre too, as a supporter, you can be left feeling just as bereft as the one you are supporting.
But know this, the journey through grief is a personal and unique one, and just as the one in grief needs support, there are little things that you can do as a supporter to hold your own energy intact.
the four agreements – a book of wisdom
I refer often to the Four Agreements, a lovely little book of wisdom authored by Don Miguel Ruiz.
This little book has those “aha” moments every time I read it, and by now, I have probably read it through about eight or nine times.
The exciting thing is, is that as my mindset and energy develop around me, I find new and interesting perspectives on the Four Agreements.
So I continue to learn more things about myself and how I interact with the world around me.
If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend you get your hands on a copy. It is life-changing!
grief can be our purpose
As we progress through the journey of grief, this aspect of grief (as our purpose) is far from our minds.
We are only feeling the loss, and there is little else that is apparent to us in those early days.
Grief is an emotional response to loss, and loss has its own unique meaning to everyone.
For the purposes of offering support, be mindful that someone might feel loss (and grieve) for what might seem even a tiny loss.
It’s fundamental that loss is not made to be comparable but that it is a unique perspective among all of us, just as we are unique individuals.
But grief can develop into a wholehearted purpose for how we live our lives.
It can be the springboard into a more meaningful life experience and bring us fully in alignment with our desires and core values.
As such, this period of support that you might offer your friend in grief is such a critical phase for both of you.
Reminding yourself that this is the potential outcome will give you hope in your essential role as a supporter.
i am a griever too
This often makes us the best supporters, because we know what we can overcome.
But Listen up, we are all grievers!
We are because we are human and in those human connections that we have when they are lost, we grieve.
It’s quite that simple.
There isn’t anything wrong with grief either.
We don’t need to be “fixed”.
We don’t need to “move on”.
We only need acknowledging and kind support along the way.
And, with the stages grievers go through – at least aware grievers – anger and throwing emotions all over the place often happens, and this can leave our supporters feeling vulnerable and uncared for.
So, the Four Agreements help out those in support.
agreement 1 – be impeccable with your word
The real crux here is to speak with integrity and say only what you mean.
A proviso here though, while you are in support, is only using your words to offer love, and never cause fear and additional pain.
There is some truth, around the words:
“Things will be better” or;
“They are in a better place” or;
“This is only temporary – it will be much better in the days ahead” or;
“Don’t be sad – this was what was expected”
In situations of grief, as I look back these are all true.
But the fundamental principle around grief is that it is unexpired love. And as such, we move forward with grief, and hardly ever on from it.
By rather using the words:
“I am here for you”
will always make the world of difference to the griever.
agreement 2 – don’t take things personally
A brilliant one to remember for all life’s situations, but for one’s supporting others in grief, a marvellous agreement to make with yourself as you head into the fray with your person.
My grief manifested in anger.
Full-on anger and when I was triggered, by just about anything that went wrong (in my eyes) I would lash out in the most unreasonable way.
I hurt and in turn, angered people around me.
But the truth of this is that when I think about those outbursts, they were honest emotions that I was experiencing at the time. While I am not excusing my behaviour in any way, I simply want to offer perspective on it.
For the one in support, not taking things personally is critical for your own boundaries.
The supporters are not the “punching bags” as it were, but there might be incidents where emotions overflow and feelings are hurt.
Remember that nothing others do is because of you.
agreement 3 – don’t make assumptions
I remember the morning of my mom’s passing.
I sprung into clean-up mode – which is something that I do when I am feeling out of control of my emotions.
My dad has since passed too, but I often wonder if that morning he would just have preferred to stay in bed with my mom a little longer.
I made an assumption that cleaning up, and stripping the bed where she passed away was helping, but now I will never know. Yes, it helped me, but my dad was also in grief on that morning.
This agreement in the book speaks to finding the courage to ask questions.
And that morning, I do feel that asking my dad if that was ok to do was something that I should have done.
Now as I move forward with my own grief, I can support others and know well that asking before is imperative.
Never assume that what you are actively doing is what the griever wants.
Make sure that before clothes go in the wash, or linen is changed, for example, they are comfortable for that to happen.
Ask also in a supportive way.
AGREEMENT 4 – ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST
I love this one.
This one, for all life and death and loss, is just perfect.
Be mindful that your best will be ever-changing.
Just as grief is ever-changing and so always doing your best as your own energy determines is fundamental for your well-being as a supporter.
Your person in grief might be completely oblivious to this aspect of your support but you knowing this will ensure that your own boundaries and energy is taken care of too.
We, humans, overlook self-care and can default to self-judgement, self-abuse and regret. But when we have done our best, and we know it we avoid this downward spiral of self-neglect.