Giving Back to Friends Who Helped You Grieve

Grief is isolating.  You may become so isolated that you are barely aware of your friends’ help.  Sure, you remember their phone calls and sympathy cards, but you may not see the scope of their caring.  As I discovered, the support of friends is necessary for grief reconciliation.

On a Friday night in February of 2007, my elder daughter died from the injuries she received in a car crash.  On Sunday, just two days later, my father-in-law succumbed to pneumonia.  I sobbed when I saw their photos on the same page of the newspaper.  Friends saw the photos, read the obituaries, and were ringing the door bell an hour after they received the paper.

Eight weeks later, my brother had a heart attack and died.  Again, my friends rallied to help.  Nine months after the dual death weekend, my former son-in-law died from the injuries he received in another car crash.  His death made our twin grandchildren orphans and my husband and me their legal guardians.  Tragedy after tragedy, my friends provided a foundation of support, a foundation strong as steel, and it has never faltered.

According to the article, “Trauma, Loss and Traumatic Grief,” posted on The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies Website, survivors need to find a support system.  This system may include friends, clergy, or others who have experienced traumatic loss.  “It may take some time to identify friends who can be good listeners,” the article notes.  All of my friends were good listeners, thank goodness.

Judith Viorst writes about the values of friendship in her book, Necessary Losses. She thinks close friends contribute to our personal growth.  “We will frequently turn – for reassurance, for comfort, for come-and-save-me help – not to our blood relations but to friends,” writes Viorst.  With the support of family and friends, I’ve created a new and happy life.  It was time to return their kindness.

I’m giving back by listening.  Listening was the greatest gift my friends gave me.  More important, they listened without judging.  Instead of my friends listening to me, I am now listening to them.  I hear stories about family relationships, wedding plans, and grandchildren.  These stories remind me of the similarity of our lives.

I’m giving back by speaking.  When a church friend called and asked if I would be willing to give a sermon, I agreed.  My sermon was about saying “yes” to life after loved ones die.  After the service, many church members thanked me for sharing my story.  One said, “I wanted to stand up and applaud.”  Others described the memorials they had established in honor of their deceased loved ones.

I’m giving back by volunteering. When I agreed to serve as secretary of a state organization, my husband was concerned.  He didn’t think I had time to raise our grandchildren, manage the household, maintain a writing career, and carry out the duties of the office.  “I only need to take minutes eight times,” I explained.  “Besides, they need me.”  The president was relieved to fill the office and I was glad to help out.

I’m giving back by comforting. Experience with grief has increased my sensitivity.  When I meet someone who is grieving, I encourage them to talk about their deceased loved one.  I also ask their permission to give them a hug.  Sending friends copies of my grief books is another way I offer comfort.

Are you emerging from the darkness of grief?  If so, maybe it’s time to give back.  According to certified psychotherapist Derek P. Scott, giving back can be a form of personal growth.  In his article, “Understanding and Working with Multiple Loss,” Scott says mourners may move from meaninglessness to “a sense of reconnection to the soul’s purpose.”  Giving back has enriched my soul and it can do the same for you.

Copyright 2009 by Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson, BS, MA, has been an independent journalist for 30 years.  She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of Health Care Journalists and the Association for Death Education and Counseling.  She writes for www.ezinearticles.com and has Expert Author and Platinum status.  A prolific writer, Hodgson is the author of hundreds of Internet/print articles and 27 books.  For more information on this busy author and grandmother go to www.harriethodgson.com

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