When it comes to grief, there is no one-size-fits-all balm to ease the pain. Thankfully, there are a myriad of resources available to help bring comfort to those who are grieving.
One of the best resources we can offer those who are grieving is our presence.
Therapist, consultant and author Wayne Muller writes about visiting a dying friend in How, Then, Shall We Live? Wayne spent much of the time talking and felt that his profound words were helping his friend. But just as he was leaving, his friend said he really didn’t understand most of what Wayne had said, but liked his company and the sound of his voice.
“I assumed my hard-won theological and spiritual wisdom would be the balm that would bring him comfort. As it happened, he felt cared for not because of my words but rather in spite of them,” Wayne writes.
Often we think about our loved ones who are grieving around the holidays or the anniversary of the death, but National Grief Awareness Day on Aug. 30 reminds us that grief does not take a holiday, and our awareness needs to be 24/7.
Grief Support Groups - A Safe Place to Shed Tears and Share
Like many communities, Kendal at Oberlin offers a support group for residents who are grieving. Some have lost spouses, children or friends to death; others are grieving the loss of a loved one who has dementia or other debilitating illness.
“Every loss is different; every circumstance is different,” says Melissa Thompson, a social worker who facilitates the monthly group.
A support group is a safe place for people to shed tears. “Crying is normal. One woman who came said she’s been holding in the tears and was able to cry at the support group,” Melissa says.
Others feel safe talking about their grief and sharing helpful books and coping strategies, from journaling and exercise to woodworking and painting.
“I’m the facilitator, but everyone shares, and it gives them hope to keep going,” she says.
Related: Help for healing a grieving heart >>
Other Resources for Those Who Are Grieving
“Journeying through Grief” is a set of four short books that discuss common passages during the first year of losing a loved one. Each book focuses on what the person is likely to be experiencing at that point in grief—offering understanding, empathy, compassion and hope.
The grief series is written by Kenneth Haugk, founder of Stephen Ministries, a one-to-one nondenominational caring ministry offered by more than 13,000 congregations. The series ($9.95) is only available through Stephen Ministries and comes with mailers to send throughout the year to a loved one who is grieving.
Hospices throughout the country offer a variety of grief support groups, including children’s camps, free and open to anyone who is grieving. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization offers many helpful resources related to grief.
In its brochure entitled “Supporting Someone Who is Grieving,” tips include:
- Listen (“Listening is the greatest gift you can give someone who is grieving.”)
- Respect individual needs (Some people want and need time alone and will decline offers to visit or not return phone calls.)
- Avoid clichés (Sometimes the best thing to say is “I’m sorry” or “I don’t know what to say.”)
The Sacred Art of Living offers many enrichment resources focused on living and dying for both professionals and the general public. The nonprofit education institute is based in Oregon but holds retreats and educational programs in Cleveland and elsewhere.
“The American Book of Living & Dying: Lessons in Healing Spiritual Pain” is co-authored by Richard Groves, founder of the Sacred Art of Living, and Henriette Anne Klauser. “Its lessons are about transforming suffering at any stage of life. Based on the wisdom found in the ancient books of living and dying, Groves’ work is also a collection of real-life stories from persons of all cultural, social and religious backgrounds,” according to the institute.
Get Help Balancing Your Emotional Wellness
Accepting and understanding feelings like grief is key to good emotional wellness - and in turn, the key to good overall wellness.
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In the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.