September can be a tricky month for parents. Some parents are sending children to kindergarten. Some are sending young adults off to college in different cities and states. In my circle of friends and family, I know several parents whose grown children also chose this month to relocate and begin life anew in a different part of the country.
While each of these new beginnings can be filled with hope and excitement for the children embarking on a new adventure, some parents also often experience less comfortable emotions, such as grief and anxiety, while helping their children navigate these transitions. Although their children are alive, healthy, and thriving, the sense of loss and grief is real and, sometimes, intense. Yet, knowing that their role as a parent is to be happy and supportive for the growth of their child, these very real feelings can quickly become the source of embarrassment or shame. To further complicate the issue, not everyone experiences loss and grief in the same way. Two friends who may have children going through the same life transition may have opposite responses to it.
The interesting thing to note is that grief, regardless of the nature of the loss, is still grief. Navigating grief and transition creates abundant opportunities for growth in communication and connection, whether we are the person having the experiencing or we are the person offering support. Many of the resources designed to offer guidance in supporting someone who is grieving the death of a loved one are relevant and applicable when supporting someone who is grieving the loss of a living relative as well. Here are a few, basic guidelines that are good to keep in mind:
1) Be patient and kind, and keep an open mind. Even if you have gone through something similar, you have not experienced life in the same way this person has. Be willing to be present to hear what this person is currently experiencing without bringing your own thoughts or opinions to the conversation.
2) Talk less, listen more. Listening without commenting, judging, or comparing is one of the biggest gifts a person can give another person.
3) Let the person know he or she is not alone. Acknowledge and validate the feelings and perspectives that this person is choosing to share with you.
For additional tips on supporting a person who is grieving, visit this helpful link:
Going the distance with a person who is actively grieving is significant and important work. Not everyone is prepared to offer the kind of support a person needs while grieving. If friends do reach out to you during their time of need, being gracious with their request for connection sends a memorable message.