Monday, May 27, 2019

GOOD GRIEF, Pace Yourself in Telling Others

Good Grief: Strategies for Building Resilience and Supporting Transformation

One of the greatest gifts you can give anybody is the gift of your honest self.
Fred Rogers, TV Show Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood
One self-care survival tactic essential for me was being honest with myself regarding my needs. At this very stressful time for me and my daughter, I did not want to keep repeating to others, “I called to let you know that my husband died.”

What worked best for me was for my daughter and me to make the contacts closest to us by ourselves first and to have the help of family, friends and colleagues to address other contacts.

This not only helped decrease our stress, but allowed others to feel good about being able to help and support us through this time. The night my husband died, my daughter felt the need to call my sister-inlaw at his mother’s home to tell her about it, so she could convey the news to his mom — a high priority. Others would be notified later. The next morning, some select others needed to be called by phone: some co-workers and a few close friends/relatives.

Notices also went out via group email to others at work, partially handled by my contact in Human Resources who offered to do this for me. I greatly appreciated this offer of support and thanked him.

The second week, individual calls were made to those who were considered close, but whom I did not see often.

The third week, I stopped at some of the businesses we were connected to and shared the loss. I also sent out emails to work colleagues or responded to the emails and condolence cards sent by mail.

Since I belonged to a group of nurse coaches, I sent an email to the leader, Barbara Dossey, sharing my loss and asked her to forward it to all our colleagues. Without delay, the message was sent and I was getting more messages of caring and support. It’s so helpful to have support persons who can help you disseminate such sensitive information. I could not have imagined interacting with so many on a one-to-one basis.

Five weeks later, I continued to communicate our loss to others not yet aware of it.

Even nine months later, I was still sharing the news of Fred’s demise with some in my community who had not learned of it.

There are some people you do not know how to contact, but over time they check in, either by email, phone, or snail mail. An alumni group from my husband’s high school was one of these. I opened his mail, and the letter inside announced a reunion of those turning 70; it included an email contact, to whom I conveyed the news of my husband’s death, asking it to be passed on to those in the group. The contact person responded with condolences and agreed. I even got a few responses from others in this group whom we both knew.

I do not know if this was the right way to proceed or not. I had no training in how the process worked, so I just pushed my way through what I thought best. You may know another, better way to share the news of a loss or have experience with rules related to the grieving process that you follow. Use whatever works for you.

Many of you also include the traditional obituary announcement that informs a larger audience of the loss of your loved one. This includes the information needed to participate in the funeral, memorial service, and gathering afterwards. Some funeral homes today also offer a posting of the event on their website with all the important information needed by those who wish to participate in the viewing or burial. These traditional communications were not pursued in our case, nor was a memorial service announcement, as it was not my late husband’s wish.

The most important thing I found was to connect with those who were willing to jump in and help me through this task. I am very grateful for each one of them. To keep track of my follow-up communication to those who offered condolences, I made a list (see the next page) and used it to not miss anyone.
        I take my time in dealing with difficult situations.
        I face each day with hope and strength to move through the grieving process.
        I am gentle with myself and others.

Condolence Check List
To keep track of my follow-up communication to those who offered condolences, I made a list so I would not miss anyone. Remember this is a stressful time, and you are distracted. Use this helpful tool. You can also ask family or friends to help you.

YOU: Card, Phone, Email, Etc.


With her permission, I am serializing here nurse Cheryl Barrett's valuable book on transcending grief. I had the pleasure of being her coach and editor through my Write Your Book with Me enterprise. 

Douglas Winslow Cooper, PhD

Perhaps the easiest way to obtain a copy of her book, published by Outskirts Press, is through this Amazon link: 

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