I was struck by something so simple, and so obvious the other day, I hadn’t actually consciously noticed it before. Of course, I had felt it before, but hadn’t made it a rule, hadn’t spoken the words:
Make sure your support people feel supportive.
I had been reflecting on the people that crossed my broken hearted path, and recognized that some had the potential to lift me up, and some had the potential to knock me down.
Some could come over, walk in, close the door, and cry with me.
Others told me to get back to normal, get back on the horse, go out more, and forget the past.
I could feel the difference. One felt like they were with me, the other felt like they were against me. One left me lighter; the other left me in tears, scribbling in my journal feeling enraged and misunderstood.
I became very good at feeling who felt supportive and who didn’t, but it can be more than something we intuit. Choosing our support people can be a conscious choice.
Alan Wolfelt said, “A bereaved person’s life is like a piece of paper upon which every passerby has the dangerous opportunity to leave a mark.” We must be active participants in choosing who we want to ‘mark our paper.’
Here are 6 suggestions specifically related to finding supportive support people:
- The people closest to you may not be the most supportive and that is OK.
- People who were supportive in previous life situations may not be supportive now. Death changes people and create new and different needs. Give yourself permission to be fluid and flexible with finding people to support you.
- Support can come from the most unlikely people. Be open.
- Pay attention to how the support that is offered feels. Does it make you feel better or worse? Do you have internal repulsion to advice offered? If so, let it go.
- Be wary of people who have all the answers. Grief isn’t something to be solved. It is something to be explored, searched, and pondered. Find support people who can support you while you question death and loss.
- Remember the rule of thirds. Alan Wolfelt has noticed in his work with the bereaved that support people can be divided into thirds: One third are people who are helpful, one third people who are neutral (the don’t help or harm) and one third of people are harmful. Choose your third. Don’t expect everyone to be everything.
Support people support, they don’t solve our grief, or ‘do grief’ for us. We must find our own way…with the love and support of others. Be choosy.