Navigating grief and loss | Psychology Today

Navigating grief and loss |  Psychology Today

Several people have written poems about saying a person’s name or telling a story about a loved one after they passed away. These poems are vital to most bereaved families as they explain what it means for the bereaved to hear the name of their loved one and to know that they are not forgotten.

There seems to be a myth that if someone mentioned the name or a memory of the deceased loved one of the bereaved, they would be hurt, sad or even heartbroken to hear this. However, the truth is exactly the opposite.

So why don’t we say or talk about the names of the deceased after a death? Are we afraid it will hurt or upset their loved ones who are left behind? Is it that we are too busy with our own lives that we have moved on? Is it that we just don’t care? Is it that we just don’t feel comfortable talking about someone who has passed away?


Know that our loved ones are not forgotten

After our loved one dies, it is so important to know that they will not be forgotten by others. When we hear others talk about them, mention their names or hear stories about them, it feels good and gives us hope to know that they will not be forgotten and may even have made a difference.

I believe we live in a society where death is denied, where people are afraid to talk about someone who has died or to reach out to friends or relatives of those who have died. All this is so sad because the bereaved are the ones who really suffer the loss of their loved one, and often the support they need and want is simply not given. A simple word or kind gesture can reassure the bereaved that they are not alone in their grief.

As a grief counselor, LCPC, psychologist, and hospital chaplain, I facilitate two grief groups – a weekly grief support group and an SOS (Suicide Survivors – for family and friends of those who have already died by suicide) every first and third week of the month and do some private counseling as well. Over the years I have seen and heard the tears, anger and pain of the bereaved be it COVID-19, cancer, heart attack, suicide, etc. They are lost, lonely and longing to hear someone speak about their loved one in conversation or hearing a story or memory about them that they hadn’t heard before or even a familiar memory of their loved one.

The pain they feel is very deep, and the sadness, fear, and anger they experience is sometimes overwhelming. The bereaved just can’t understand why their friends, family or even colleagues and doctors don’t mention their deceased loved ones when they talk to them.

How to help the bereaved

So, what can we do to reach the bereaved? First, it is extremely important for the bereaved to talk about their loved ones around other people, who in turn will give others permission to talk about them with the bereaved.

Then everyone should just talk about the bereaved in conversation or share a story or memory about what you remember about them. By doing this, you bring them joy that their loved one has not been forgotten and that others really care about them. When the bereaved collapse and cry, it is tears of happiness that their loved one is remembered. Also be patient with them and think about how you would feel if your loved one died and no one remembers your loved one.

It is sad to think that sometimes a family member or friend has to die before someone really understands what the bereaved are going through. As my grief groups would say, they just don’t get it! Remember that it is in telling the story that the healing takes place.


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