“There are three needs of the griever:

To find the words for the loss, to say the words aloud,

and to know that the words have been heard.”

Victoria Alexander

So this is it in a nutshell. For all of the grief theories and models out there, for all of the education we share with people, I have not seen the process of grief put so clearly.

To find the words – this can be incredibly difficult. How do we find words for something that is unthinkable, unspeakable? How do we describe what we are going through, when it is new to us? This experience, which we did not ask for, how do we find the words? We are unique, and so our grief will be unique to us. Being with others who are grieving, listening to their stories, is one way that we can find our own language.

Finding our words requires contemplation, it requires rest, and it requires an inward journey. It requires patience and self-compassion. To find our words, we need to quiet our inner critic and allow ourselves to just be.

To say the words out loud – this requires courage. It also requires discernment. In order to say words out loud, we need to feel a sense of safety with the person, or people that we are sharing with. There is a vulnerability in sharing our grief with others. This work is sacred. We can be hurt very easily. Often by well meaning people. Sometimes, we are surprised to see that the people we think will be most helpful do not have the capacity to sit with you and hear your words. Find your people.

To know the words have been heard – this is the piece that is often overlooked. Well meaning people will try to take us out of our pain thinking that it is helpful. Or they will give advice or speak in platitudes. This is not helpful. In order to heal, we need to feel. We need to have our experience validated and acknowledged. We need to be held in our pain. I tell our volunteers – we need to be comfortable with discomfort. We need to allow people to mourn, to express their grief using the words that work best for them. The most meaningful gift we can give anyone in grief is to listen.

So in your journey, be patient with yourself as you find the words to express your grief, be discerning in who you share your words with and find the listeners. The people who will hold allow you to be right where you are.

Be Gentle,

Denise Torgerson
Community Programs