InnovAge Blog

Dealing with Grief and Loss

What can we do when we, or someone we care about is going through grief? After many years working with people experiencing grief and loss, InnovAge Chaplain Kelly Crabbe shares some advice.
 
“Grief isn’t our enemy, it’s our ally,” he says. “It’s the loss we’ve experienced that hurts. Grief is our heart telling us to slow down and figure this thing out.” Here are some of his suggestions for working through grief:
 
  • Say out loud what you’re feeling. Express your feelings with those who make you feel safe. It’s normal when we’re physically injured to tell the story of what happened and where it hurts. Emotional pain should be no different. Sharing with others can be helpful.
 
  • Avoid things that numb your feelings, like alcohol. We need to experience grief and process it, not pretend it’s not there. Difficult as it is, the pain of grief shouldn’t be numbed. Instead, it should be felt and used to know how long we need special care.
 
  • Allow yourself to cry and feel sad. This is part of healing. Your loss is real and needs to be recognized for the full significance it carries. It’s not just a one-time event that has happened, it’s a life change that you will come to terms with over time and in your own way.
 
How to support others who are struggling with grief?
 
  • Don’t avoid talking about it. Bring it up. Ask them how they’re feeling. If they don’t want to talk, respect their wishes. If you never bring it up, it may make them feel like you don’t care.
 
  • Don’t put a time limit on their grief. There is no “average timeframe” for grieving a loss. Allow them to live into and process their grief in their own way. Practice patience and compassion.
 
  • Be present. Let them know they are loved and supported. You can also offer to help. Instead of saying, “let me know if there’s anything I can do,” say “I’m going to clean your kitchen” (or whatever you think would be helpful).
 
There are signs along the way that healing is taking place, like when we begin to laugh again, when our appetite comes back, or when we go a whole day without thinking about our loss.
 
Circumstances differ for every loss, and so does the grieving process. It could take shorter or longer, so the key is to be in touch with your own feelings.
 
Read more on the InnovAge blog about topics including the interplay of addiction and dementia and mental illness in older adults.

Grief is our heart telling us to slow down and figure this thing out.
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