Open to Hope Foundation’s Dr. Gloria Horsley interviews Shep Jeffreys for the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) organization. What happens when tears aren’t enough to help you grief? Jeffreys is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University. He’s also a psychologist and grief counselor with a private practice. He’s also the author of Helping Grieving People – When Tears Are Not Enough, which just released its second edition. Helping grieving people usually comes with “normal” customary things, but that doesn’t always work for everyone.
Many times tears can greatly help a griever—as can friends, church groups, or other routine approaches. What’s next? They need somebody else to come in and be supportive. Jeffreys’ book is designed to help the person who’s gearing up to help, whether it’s a professional or family caregiver. He wrote this book for his graduate students. He also teaches at Loyola University, where he merges the spiritual and the practical. Especially in death, that’s when faith systems can suddenly be expected to deliver a lot.
Getting buried with traditional faith rites, even when a family isn’t particularly religious, is common. Suddenly reaching for faith—or rejecting their faith—is a common response. You can feel like you did everything right in your faith, but things didn’t work out as planned. This leads to an entirely different loss on top of the loss of a loved one.
Tears often aren’t enough, and Jeffreys encourages caregivers to take different approaches. Find someone who will listen to you, he urges. Just because one approach doesn’t work or you don’t feel welcomed doesn’t mean you will keep experiencing that again and again. Both grievers and caretakers have to take the initiative.