Grief, a topic we really don’t discuss very often. The work I do and I’m called to, has a whole lot of violence and a lot of death, but we don’t seem to talk about the issue of death. Not just dealing and helping our young people with grief, but how do we as leaders navigate grief when we’re trying to help others through the process?
One thing we all have in common; loss takes a really deep & heavy toll on our community, families and youth workers.
A wise mentor once told me, “Grief…it waits for you. You can deal with it now, or ten years later it’s going to resurface and you’ll have to deal with it then.” We all have to navigate grief, especially when there are questions like “why?”. In helping families grieve, I too am hurting through the process, but I’m blessed to have an incredible community of support around me. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, there are ways in which our intentions help, but sometimes our help can also end up being harmful.
6 things not to say to someone who is grieving:
1. “So how are you doing?”
Instead consider saying, “I know you’re really suffering right now.”
2. “Well, they’re in a better place”
Instead consider saying, “I know you really miss them, you must be hurting.”
3. “Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.”
Instead consider offering what you can do for them, “I’m going to bring you meals three times this week.”
4. “I know how you feel.”
Instead consider saying, “I can’t even imagine how you feel right now.”
5. “Well this happens, death is a part of life.”
Instead consider saying, “I know you’re suffering and that you really miss them. Tell me something about them.”
6. You keep silent and don’t say anything at all.
Instead help them relive a happy memory they have, “remember the time when…” or “tell me a memory you have of them.”
A lot of times as youth workers, when our young people go through grief, we think we have to be the savior. We have to fix them. Then we can heal personally. I have found a lot of my healing was done together, with the same young people that are grieving. The biggest thing we can do to help our youth through the process is, our own presence. Don’t try to fix it, don’t come at it with clichés instead pray, look for ways you can offer words of encouragement. Presence is the key.
When someone grieves, everyone is there for the funeral, for the burial and then everyone goes home and back to their own life. Young people and families are left alone to process their grief. This is one of the most powerful times to be there after everyone goes back to their normal lives. Three weeks later, you can still bring them meals, two months later you can still visit them. Grief is a process, acknowledge it, understand it, see where they are, validate where they are, but grief is not just during the funeral, but a process you need to walk through with youth.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted” Psalms 34:18
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