2001-10-27 / Columnists

The Inner Voice

By Marilyn Gelfand

By Marilyn Gelfand

In my last column, I wrote about coping and learning from the experience of losing a loved one. I also asked if anyone had any ideas to share from your own experiences so we could help each other. Sometimes people feel uncomfortable visiting someone who has just had a special person die. The best way to speak to that person is mostly with acknowledgment of how the mourner feels. "I know how much pain you are in" or "How do you feel?" or "It hurts so much" are good comforting remarks.

As much as you may want to encourage the person to be strong or remind the mourner how the deceased lived a long life, those are not really helpful. Of course the person knows he must be strong or that the dead person is in God’s hands, but the pain and shock are very powerful feelings and need to be recognized.

There are two separate issues in mourning. One is for the deceased moving on, the way the person lived and died and feelings about the individual. The other is the feeling of loss, pain, shattering and changing life for the mourner. It is often best to let the mourner speak and direct the conversation. The one who is in mourning may or may not want to be distracted with conversation about life outside.

Our society places such value on being able to control and not display emotions. One should be strong, tough and handle anything with a mask on ourselves. Especially at a time of mourning, the more a person can be authentic to his or her nature, the easier the time will be. For us emotional types, we know the value of releasing our feelings, crying till we are done, expressing our pain till we know we’re exhausted.

Expressing emotion is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of beginning the healing process. As days go on, there will be some diversion, some emotion inside, and the emotion continues to be released. I have noticed for controlling types of people, often the feelings of anger are more highly regarded than tears.

You can be angry, but don’t cry. I think that anyone who judges another is trying to control the other on some level, and if self-doubt comes in, the person is controlled. When in mourning, do it your own way. Feel till it goes away. Don’t pretend that everything is all right when it isn’t. Just be yourself.

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