Processing Grief & Loss – Show & Tell

Hey Everybody!  I opened my computer and started to write again! I have had a busy past two weeks ending up the first term of my college courses and installing a new computer and printer! This are really progressing in technology and now I have a printer that I know is smarter than me! If only I can keep up!!


Today I want to address the grief and loss of having cancer and what you can do that will absolutely help your friend or relative.  Its simple, its straightforward and it will take a ‘load’ off of what to do when.

I know its hard to figure out what and when to say anything to somebody that has suffered a loss.  I have watched my friends struggle with what to say; some saying absolutely idiotic things and I wonder where on earth are they coming from?

People do the best they can do.  We cannot expect them to do more.  Its a complicated thing.  They are in their own pain or concern.  Whatever you want to call it, this is the time of communication, good or bad or somewhere in between.

But there are some basic steps that you can do, that will definitely be positive and set the groundwork for going forward.

First a serious loss has shaken the life of the person you know.  Their ‘ground’ has been tossed around and they have lost control of their choices and they don’t know what to say either.  Cancer is a frightening disease.  The word rings terror in their ears and the fear of the unknown is prevalent.  Acknowledge what has happened.

People who are grieving often feel different from others.  They can feel pushed aside, cut off from their normal environment, ignored and very lonely.  Reaching out opens communication and says to the cancer patient, “I am with you and I will be with you.”  That is just what they need to hear that can make a very powerful difference and reassure the cancer patient they are not in this alone.

Simply, you can do this in easy ways.  You can send a card.  Just a thinking of you card.  Be especially sure, if you are geographically close to the person, to include them in family gatherings, friend get-togethers or just over for a meal.  Its great to invite them ‘out’ to your house or a restaurant.  That way they can choose how long to be gone, and they can retreat home to their safe zone when they feel the need to go.  Keep the conversation light and have plenty of good food!  Don’t expect the person to drink alcoholic beverages at this time.  They are probably on pain pills or other medication it will not mix with.  And they probably will not say no because you have so graciously offered this invitation.  Don’t ask for trouble in this situation.  If they want a drink, they will ask.

So acknowledging is the first step.  Trust me, it is comforting and makes a cancer patient feel like you are in this together and they are not alone.  Remember their feelings are especially sensitive at this time, they are feeling so vulnerable.

The second thing to do is to listen.  When another person’s life has been transformed by a cancer diagnosis ; part of their life has ended.  And, they did not want it to end.  They are experiencing discomfort and pain. No, they do not want to give you the details of a very private procedure so don’t ask.  They will share it, if and when they are ready to.

People in grief need to make sense of what has occurred to them. One way they can do this is to talk about it.  Your job is to listen.  Please don’t start telling stories and please do not say that friend so and so recovered in a short time and went right back to work.  Every case is different.  A person is not required to share every detail with you of their illness nor may they be ready to. It’s a very private experience.  Let them decide when to reveal and when not to.  I know I appreciate it.

You will find that people in this circumstance often want to talk more than normal about this.  They may repeat themselves. They may start over and get parts of the story mixed up.  It may be difficult to follow their train of thought. Imagine what it is like to be them.  Often anesthesia has interfered with thinking at this time, and it takes months if ever for the brain to function normally.

However much they talk and in whatever way they talk, remember they are finding ways to accept and live with what has happened and is happening to themselves.  This has come crashing into their lives, and they are just trying to learn to deal with it.

Good listening takes energy.  It can be both time consuming and tiring to stay with a person who is going through this.  It is emotionally draining to you both.  But at the same time, your listening can be an act of sacredness.  You are creating an environment in which someone can entrust you with the shear essence of who they are; what they think and what they fear.  This can be an extreme contribution to their healing.  Listen.

Over time the two of you can experience something wonderful together…the healing that begins to take place gradually as their story unfolds, as they begin to make adjustments in acceptance of the situation and start to trust life again.  It all begins with this: your willingness to stay with them and simply listen.  It is a greater gift than you will ever know.

More tomorrow on Responding and Acceptance.

Have a great day!



About Bonnie

Breast Cancer survivor owned by one old Shelty and a 3 pound Yorkie named Mimzy!
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