Getting past the F-Word
When it comes to grief and it's associated feelings and thoughts, is it ok for a man or woman to simply 'not talk about it'?
Grief can be a horrible journey. It is something that we never get over, and it is something that we need to get through.
After the death of a family member many things will never be the same again. The landscape of our lives will be very different.
As a married man, I know very well that when I ask my beautiful wife how she is and she replies, “fine” that she is indeed not fine! Fine seems to be the universal word to mean such things as; ‘don’t ask’, ‘I don’t want to tell you’, ‘I’m not talking to you about it’, and the list goes on… and on…. and on.
Continuing with the generalization of a woman’s “fine”, let’s add men to the same equation. A “fine” or perhaps “it’s all good” can again be the preferred verbal direction of “don’t go there” or “don’t talk to me about this”.
When it comes to grief and its associated feelings and thoughts, is it ok for a man or woman to simply “not talk about it?”
I remember my friend Tony speaking to me about a concern he had about one of his mates Jackson. Jackson was not talking (at all) about the recent loss of his brother – and this was incredibly concerning for him. The first question I asked Tony however, was; “is your mate usually talkative or quiet?”
He replied with “Jackson was pretty quiet actually.”
I went on, “so this behaviour is not unusual for him then… why are you so concerned?” Tony replied, “because he has just lost his brother and he needs to talk about it!”
Well, my thoughts were that he actually doesn’t need to at all.
Tony was definitely guilty of what we in the industry like to call “projection”. That is; ‘how he would handle the loss’. Tony is an audible processor… he needs to talk things through as it helps him to hear his own words and thinking and to be able to evaluate. But for his mate Jackson, silence and personal space was how he managed his life… and that is more than ok.
A great danger area we can find ourselves in, is when we project our coping style onto another.
For Jackson to tell Tony that he’s ‘fine’, is a very acceptable answer and one that needed to be respected by Tony.
However, if behaviour changes (for the negative) then the time for remaining silent may need to come to an end. For a friend to say they are ‘FINE’ and yet clearly present with harmful behaviours, then because of your care for them this is definitely a cause for concern and a time for considered action.
When we grieve, our make up and personality doesn’t magically change, even if we ‘behave’ differently for a while. Usually a quiet person will remain quiet, a loud person will remain loud… and yet don’t be surprised if there are times of opposites taking place.
‘Fine’ is an acceptable response… after a period of time (different length for everyone) if our loved ones are not ‘going so well’ then out of love and respect, offer to help them or get help for them.
It is at the initial acute time of grief that I remember the 3 H’s.
1. Hang Around
The term hang around does not mean get in the way. Hang around for me means “I’m available” – whether that means to:Drop in on the way home from work
- Drop in on the way home from work
- Send a text
- Give them a call
- Pickup their kids from school
- Do their shopping
Hanging around means you’re available to do whatever they might want or need.Hanging around means you’re available.
The definition of ‘hug’ in this scenario is really being prepared to step into another person’s world or perhaps better described in grief as ‘someone else’s pain’.
As we know, not everybody appreciates physical touch and therefore the term hug is not referring to the physical act of hugging, but more of the message to your friend, that you are not afraid to connect with them and to enter their world – no matter how painful. For the person who welcomes and appreciates a physical hug, then by all means embrace that person.
A hug can be represented by:
- A literal physical hug.
- A listening ear.
- A walking companion.
- A quick text or a brief phone call.
- A companion to sit on the couch and watch movies with.
- A friend to yell at and cry with.
- A mate to have a quiet drink at the local with.
Hush means BE QUIET.
Hush means don’t try and give an explanation when the reality is that no explanation will do.
Hush means, it’s OK to leave the WHY question unanswered.
Hush is being comfortable enough to remain silent, to not fill in the empty spaces of dialogue, to simply be around without opinion or direction.
Getting past the F WORD is all about knowing the person grieving well enough to respect them when they need the space to remain silent, and responding lovingly when they need some encouragement to deal with what we call ‘complicated grief.’
By Steve Morrison