Everyone suffers loss, whether it’s through the death of a loved one or the loss of an identity. And losses need to be grieved. In this episode, grief expert Dr. H. Norman Wright joins us to talk about what you need to know about grieving.
This week’s Inspire Me quote is a prayer from one of Dr. H. Norman Wright’s clients:
“Lord, You know my needs. All I ask is that You provide a single healing stitch to my heart once a day. I know that over time, while the scar in my heart will always remain, the healing can begin.”
How can we support someone who is grieving in a healthy, helpful way? Dr. H. Norman Wright suggests we take these simple, intentional actions:
- Be there. Be physically present with the mourner. Be willing to sit with him or her in the pain of loss.
- Ask how he or she is doing—really doing. Give him or her the time and space to answer honestly.
- Be patient. Give him or her time to process, to share, to heal. Realize that healing will not happen quickly, but will occur gradually over many years.
- Be okay with repetition. He or she needs to tell the story of loss over and over again to heal.
- Listen. Don’t give advice. Not saying anything is often the best support.
- Ask what you can do. Don’t assume he or she wants a tray of lasagna; ask what kind of support is most helpful (if it is providing food, ask about allergies).
- Learn about grief. Take time to read about how it affects mourners and what kind of support is most helpful. Realize we will be exposed to more and more grief as we age.
Often, being around someone who is grieving can cause us to reflect on our own losses. One of Dr. H. Norman Wright’s clients once asked him: “What is the loss in your life that you have never fully grieved over?”
If there is unresolved grief in our own lives or if we are actively grieving losses, how do we go about grieving in a healthy way? Dr. H. Norman Wright encourages us to:
- Face and acknowledge the loss. Losses impact our lives in profound ways. Acknowledging that helps.
- Learn to say goodbye. If we have regrets or never had a chance to say goodbye, handwrite a letter of goodbye or of regrets and read it aloud. Doing so helps provide a sense of closure.
- Ask “Why?” It’s a cry of protest and it’s a normal part of the grieving process. Just remember that most “Why” questions go unanswered.
- Be patient. The pain will move from a present-emotional type of pain to a more historical pain. But it does take time.
- Watch as God becomes more significant. It may not happen immediately, but eventually, those “Why” questions will turn into, “What can I learn through this?” And, finally, “How can God be glorified through this?”
Quotes from the show:
- “We live in a culture that does not teach us in advance about loss and grief. And, at the worst time in our lives, when we are in deep pain, not only do we have to deal with that, but we also have to try to figure out, ‘Am I going crazy, am I normal, what’s going on?'” — Dr. H. Norman Wright
- “When you’re in grief, your thinking patterns are different. There’s irrational thoughts, there’s a lot of fear. Part of the fear is that, ‘I will never, never get over this.’ And the second big fear we hear about is that, ‘The loved one that I lost is going to be forgotten.’ And that usually is true. People tend to forget. After about three months, where’s the casserole parade? Where’s everybody coming to help? They’re not around. And we feel isolated. That’s the time when we are in deep, deep pain.” — Dr. H. Norman Wright
- “You don’t get back to normal. You create a new normal, a new stability in your life.” — Dr. H. Norman Wright
- “When you’re in grief, watch your driving. This is the time when you’re most likely to get into an accident or get a ticket.” — Dr. H. Norman Wright
- “You have difficulty with your sleeping. You have dreams, you have nightmares. And you have shattered beliefs—about life, about the world, and even God. You begin to question. It’s alright to ask the question, ‘Why?’ It’s not just a question. It’s a cry of protest.” — Dr. H. Norman Wright
- “Eventually, your ‘Why?’ question is going to turn into, ‘What can I learn through this?’ ‘How can I grow through this?’ And, finally, ‘How can God be glorified through this?'” — Dr. H. Norman Wright
- “The more you can learn about grief, the more you will be able to handle it better.” — Dr. H. Norman Wright
- “Even if you’re not in grief, learn as much as you can so that God can use you to minister to that person you run into at the grocery market or the neighbor up the street.” — Dr. H. Norman Wright
- “Most people think, ‘Well, they’ll get over this in a few months.’ … There are certain things you have to keep in mind: at three months and the one year anniversary, the grief seems to intensify for some reason. Just like at significant dates.” — Dr. H. Norman Wright
- “Something else that is so important to realize: If you have any type of unresolved loss in your life, the loss that you now experience reaches back into your past, grabs ahold of that loss, and brings it forward so you’re dealing with not just what you experience this week or this month—you’re experiencing the past.” — Dr. H. Norman Wright
- “It’s normal to experience grief. It really is.” — Dr. H. Norman Wright
This week’s Challenge Me:
If you know someone who has suffered loss, take Dr. H. Norman Wright’s advice and write his or her name on your calendar every three months for the next two years. Then, when you see his or her name, pray for him or her and send a handwritten note (not a text or email) expressing that you’re thinking of him or her.
Resources mentioned in or related to this podcast that may be helpful to you: