Making Peace with Sorrow

Along the Road
by Robert Browning Hamilton

I walked a mile with Pleasure.
She chattered all the way.
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow.
And ne'er a word said she,
But oh, the things I learned from her
When Sorrow walked with me!

Lately, we have been getting an unusually high number of calls from people who are grieving the loss of loved ones or choosing to send audio programs to others who are grieving. I am moved by the heartfelt sincerity in their voices, whether they are lost in grief and seeking something to help them, or bewildered about how to help a grief-stricken friend or relative.

People often say they have avoided funerals, calling hours and memorials because they don't know what to say to someone who is grieving, and they fear that saying or doing the wrong thing will cause them more pain.

A few years ago, a close friend experienced the death of her first grandchild. She was grieving, while attempting to help her son and daughter-in-law come to terms with an unimaginable loss. When she snapped at something I said, my first impulse was to feel hurt, but it came to my mind that this was so not about me. At that point, I felt ultimate compassion for her. I took her hand, but I still didn't know what to say.

Since then, I have experienced a deep, personal loss and I have been saddened to see friends go through the experience of grieving loved ones. I was happy to see Belleruth's recent post, Do's and Don'ts for the Bereaved and Their Well-meaning Friends. This is a subject that is rarely addressed. Her suggestions could help people make peace with their sorrow and minimize confusion for friends who want to console them.

It seems each of us has taken a turn as the one who has experienced a loss and heard comments that are less than helpful from well-meaning friends or relatives. Each of us has also taken a turn as the one who wants to help, but doesn't know quite what to say to someone who is grieving.

This conundrum is universal and even if you have read Belleruth's Do's and Don'ts for the Bereaved and Their Well-meaning Friends, it's worth revisiting.

"If you're grieving, don't be afraid of your sadness. It won't kill you. It's just a feeling, after all, and you'll feel better and more energized for letting it move through you. If you are a friend or relative of someone who is grieving, it's all about being watchful, patient, respectful and sensitive; putting aside your needs for the other person's; talking less and listening more."—Belleruth Naparstek

As always, we welcome your comments, stories and feedback. We love hearing from you.