Grief and loss

The word ‘listen’ contains the same letters as the word ‘silent’

Grief, along with other popular terms in psychology such as trauma, personality disorders and mental health have become politicized and pathologized to the point whereby social media channels have decontextualized and misappropriated the complexities inherent in the aforementioned terms. Grief is a universal phenomenon which by definition infers nuances in expression, interpretation and, is culturally mediated. Recognizing the effect of cultural influences on grief enables support networks to provide culturally appropriate methods for managing grief. Furthermore, understanding that grief isn’t just sadness and can result in feelings of relief, disbelief, anger and shock, provides a lens for caregivers and professionals to engage with compassion and non-judgmental approach while supporting the grieving individual. A companion to the griever instead of trying to ‘treat’ the grief.

Grief and mourning are interdependent, that is, the individual’s grief shapes the mourning process and vice versa and whilst grief and mourning are typically reserved for the passing of a loved one, mourning is also a component of trauma recovery, the loss of important relationships, loss of employment, life transitions and existentially, the finitude of life. 

Strategies for supporting individuals through the grieving process can include the following:

a) understand individual perception of and belief systems associated with grief while adopting a humble stance so that you can understand how your own experiences with loss are impacting your presence to the mourner

b) Endorse a compassionate presence- Compassionately being with mourners means being fully present and actively listening. It means creating a space to hospitably bear witness to whatever the mourner thinks and feels

c) Understand that sometimes silence is the best way to support the mourner. Attempting to fill the silent gaps will end with you leading the mourning. According to Stephen Covey, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”. Be comfortable with silence.

d) Use SOLER Power- The SOLER mnemonic can help with interactions:

  • Sit straight
  • Open posture
  • Lean forward
  • Eye contact
  • Relax.