If you have read any of my previous blogs, you know that I am a huge advocate of allowing the grief that you are experiencing on the inside be expressed through mourning on the outside. You’ll also know by now that I strongly suggest not keeping your mourning to yourself, but to share it with others as well.
In a perfect world, it wouldn’t matter who you expressed your mourning to because everyone would be understanding, kind, and supportive. We don’t live in a perfect world, though, do we? So just saying that we need to share our grief through mourning with others is not enough. We need to be selective in who we reveal the brokenness and anxiety and fear and anger and depression and ugliness of grief that is going on inside of us.
Here are five traits that you want to look for when choosing a good mourning partner:
- Confidant: Who do you know that knows how to keep a secret? A good standard of figuring this out is determining who in your life has shared gossip with you and who hasn’t. If they have shared gossip and even divulged secrets others have told them, there is a good chance they’ll gossip about you and tell your secrets as well. So consider who you can tell your most intimate secrets with and know that they will stay hidden with that person.
- Non-Judgmental: Who do you know that won’t cringe when you reveal ugly thoughts or feelings? A good standard of figuring this out is determining who in your life lives by “shoulds?” “You shouldn’t do this…” “You should do that…” Who will allow you to be angry and throw a tantrum without judging you to be childish? Who will allow you to cuss up a storm and not question your spirituality?” Who will allow you to say crazy things, but not consider you mentally ill? Who will let you be you and still like you? For example, I remember a very spiritual man once telling me that he had gotten so angry in his grief that he began cussing and broke a fixture in his house. He knew some of his friends would not understand, but he also knew someone he could just sit down, have a beer, and share the crud with. Look for people in your life that won’t judge you for being ugly.
- Healthy Boundaries: Who do you know that won’t soak up all of your problems into him/herself? Who is not an emotional sponge? A good standard for figuring this out is determining who in your life won’t become depressed just because you are depressed, angry because you are angry, worried because you are worried and so forth. The problem with emotional sponges is two-fold. First, you begin to not want to share anything with them for fear that you are burdening them with your problems. Secondly, you sometimes end up having to care for them because they are now exhibiting the emotions you are having. You then become the care-giver instead of the care-receiver! So look for people in your life who can hear what you have to say and sympathize with your feelings, but not soak them all up into themselves.
- Active Listener: Who do you know that will really listen to what you have to say? A good standard for figuring this out is to list those you feel have listened to you in the past. If the person likes to do all of the talking and is known for changing the subject back onto him/herself, then they probably aren’t a very good candidate. But if the individual is really good at not only listening to you, but asking good questions to clarify what you are saying, then I would say they are a very good candidate for being a mourning partner.
- Companion: Who do you know that won’t try to fix you or the situation you are in? A good standard for figuring this out is to determine if you suspect the individual will say something like, “If I were you, I would…” You see the problem with fixers is that they usually aren’t very good listeners and most times, you aren’t looking to be fixed, just understood. Fixers, on the other hand, are often thinking through solutions as you are sharing, keying in on one or two things you may have said out of twenty, and not getting the whole picture before they offer their sure-fire solution. So try to find individuals who will listen to your problems without feeling responsible for fixing them.
These are five great traits to look for in finding individuals to share your mourning with. But what if you don’t have anyone in your life right now who fits the bill? Well, it is going to require some effort on your part, but will be worth it. Here are three suggestions:
- Reach out to an acquaintance who has experienced a similar loss (death of a husband, child, etc.) and see if they would be willing to walk with you through your grief journey.
- Locate a Grief Support Group in your area.
- Schedule a session with a professional counselor that specializes in grief counseling. It will cost some money, but will be well worth the investment in yourself.
Grieving is a terrible experience. Yet, it can be eased through mourning with others. So please, don’t keep it to yourself. Rather, reach out to someone today and begin the healing.