Songs for the Struggling Artist


How to Be with a Grieving Person
May 8, 2022, 9:27 pm
Filed under: advice, grief | Tags: , ,

There are a lot of things I wish I’d known when friends and family have lost loved ones in the past. I wish I could have known them without knowing such grief myself but unfortunately that is how I learned it. I noticed that those who have experienced a loss like mine were the most adept at engaging with me in a difficult time. It is a skill forged in tears, it would seem.

I know people worry about what to say to someone who’s lost someone – so a lot of times folks just don’t reach out at all. The thing is, though, for all the fear of saying the wrong thing, there’s really nothing to say. There is literally nothing anyone can say that will make a death less painful. It is simply painful and words are unlikely to make much difference. Your words will not be the thing that turn someone’s grief around. Does that mean you shouldn’t say anything at all? No. You should say something but you don’t have to say anything original. You can say “I’m sorry for your loss.” You send your condolences. They won’t change anything but they will affirm your presences with the grieving person, which frankly, is all that is required. Show up. Give hugs if they’re wanted. Hold a hand if it’s needed. Pass the box of tissues if the person runs out. If you don’t have anything to say, just sit quietly. Flowers are really nice.

If you’re far from the grieving person, you can send cards. You can send care packages. You can send text messages. You can send flowers. You can send flower emoji.

People kept offering their ears if I needed to talk and maybe there are people who grieve in a garrulous way. But I did not need to talk. There’s just not much to talk about. He’s dead. It’s terrible. That’s it.

But it was really helpful to hear from people every so often. Honestly, just a little flower emoji was all I needed to know someone was thinking of me. I felt like my needs were so basic but they were rarely met by anyone outside of my immediate circle. Most people, if they did anything, wrote a condolence message on my Facebook post about my brother’s death and that was that. I have done exactly the same with my condolences over the years. I’d do it differently now. First, I’d send a direct message of some kind – an email or a social media message. If I could, I would send a card, if I have their address. Cards are nice because you can look at them again and feel as though the person that sent it to you is with you all over again. If the grieving person was nearby, I’d ask if I could stop by and give them a hug. Then, for the people I know well, I would check back in. How are they now? The loss doesn’t stop. It’s okay to send a second or third condolence/check in.

I think people worry that they’re going to trigger more grief by bringing up a loss but what I know now is that the grief is there whether someone is asking after it or not. I think mostly people are worried about making someone cry when they’re not currently crying. I don’t want to speak for every grieving person, I mean, I couldn’t possibly, but I will say for me, I’d rather be asked after than avoid tears. I really don’t mind crying. And I haven’t cried yet at an inquiry about how I’m doing with the loss. The loss (and the tears) are present whether you ask after them or not. It can be a relief just to acknowledge its presence. When someone brings up my brother’s death, I feel cared for because not everyone is willing to acknowledge such a thing.

In my particular case, the dominant response to the situation was silence. I’m not in a community where people bring casseroles. I did not receive a single lasagna. I think I might have liked one – as those rituals of care seem especially poignant to me now. Like, if you don’t know what else to do, bring food. But I really can’t complain. I received many kind messages (and two sweetheart cactuses) and I am so grateful for all the care. I promise I’m not writing this to get a lasagna out of the deal.

I’m really writing this for myself from before – like, all the things I wish I’d known before – when friends or family lost someone. There are so many things that make a difference that I would not have considered. Things like, checking in with someone more than once. Or, just sending a Thinking of You message. Or an emoji.

That’s all stuff I wish I’d done before for people who are dear to me. It’s fine. I didn’t. I didn’t know. And the vast majority of people don’t know, either – so whatever response they had is also truly fine. One thing death does for you is to clarify the stakes and scale of a thing. The really bad thing is the death, any response to it pales in comparison to that bad news.

A lot of people who’ve been through loss like this mentioned that people can say stupid things on the subject. I’m sure that’s true. – but I mostly didn’t experience anything particularly stupid. Honestly, I think something stupid would be better than nothing. If you say something really stupid at least we’ll have something to talk about. If it’s really stupid, we might get a good laugh out of it even.

I mean – the stupidest comments I heard at my brother’s memorial were of the “I didn’t know Will had a sister!” variety, which, you know, sucks for me, Will’s sister – but it’s that person’s truth, so, no big deal. That’s just facts for them.

What I’m trying to suggest here is that showing up for someone in grief is really just showing up, in whatever way you can and doing it in a sustained way. Send that “Thinking of you” text and then after a few weeks, send another one. It’s simple. But it’s effective. You’ll see. I hope you won’t have to see it for yourself.

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Predicting the Grief Weather
March 25, 2022, 6:38 pm
Filed under: Feldenkrais, grief | Tags: , , , ,

A few days after my brother was killed, I was scheduled to give a Feldenkrais lesson to a new client. We’d been planning it for months and I hadn’t had work in ages so it seemed reasonable to keep the appointment. I figured it would be good to have something to do as I was mostly just walking around crying. Despite my best efforts, it did not go well. We did not connect and a few days later she wrote to say she was going with another practitioner. It’s highly probable that we wouldn’t have been a good match regardless but I feel fairly certain that the roiling grief that was just under my effortful smile was not helpful in this situation. I’m a good actor but there are limits. In retrospect, I should have canceled that appointment and waited until my grief was less acute. I didn’t know that then. I didn’t know what to do in this sort of situation. I didn’t know anything about my own grief. I still don’t.

I feel like if I’ve heard anything about grief over the years it’s that everyone grieves in their own way – that it is a highly individual experience that each person navigates differently, that grief is variable. What I wasn’t prepared for is how variable it would be in my own experience, within myself, how unknown. I feel like I know myself pretty well. I find myself fairly predictable. I usually know when I’m going to hit a rough patch. I know I will hit a low after an artistic high. I am a pretty good meteorologist for my own emotional weather pattern. Usually. With grief in the mix, there are a whole lot more sudden squalls than I would have expected. I try to plan for things but then I realize I do not have sufficient experience for them.

I started thinking about this because my brother’s birthday was approaching. I figured I should plan for it to be hard but I did not how it would be hard. Then a regular client of mine, one who I have helped go from hunched and contorted to upright and smiling, wanted to see me. I offered her many dates, including Will’s birthday and she chose it. I thought, like I thought before, it would be good to be busy, good to help someone. Then I wondered if I’d made a mistake again.

The thing is, though, I can’t know. No one can know. Will it better to be busy or to take some contemplative time? It’s different for everyone and it’s different for me. Like, last time it was a bad idea but maybe this time is a good idea. Or maybe ideas are neither good nor bad right now. In other contexts, I would always choose contemplation. If there’s a question of how to care for myself, I opt for quiet reflection. That’s how we ended up with all these blogs, folks! I’m a contemplator. I’m a considerer. But there’s really nothing to chew over with this. It’s just sad. That’s it. It’s sad on his birthday and it’s sad when it’s not his birthday. Some days I don’t really think about it and some days hit me like a ton of bricks.  Will my brother’s birthday be a ton of bricks? Could be. But so could a Tuesday. It’s just impossible to know for sure.

On Thanksgiving, a friend checked in via text because “holidays are hard.” I thought, “Are they? I can’t even remember the last Thanksgiving I spent with Will.” And then I thought, “and now I never will again.” And indeed the holiday was hard, though not in the way I expected.

By the time I get this typed up and posted, his birthday will have passed. He will not have turned thirty the way he should have, had his life not been cut short by a drunk motorcyclist.

I will know then what my emotional weather will have been that day and whether it will have been a mistake to see my client. But truly it is already raining. I’m not really worried about whatever storm is coming because it’s already been here.

Actual footage of my brain trying to figure out what’s coming next.

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me weather the weather?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a “coffee” (or several!) on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis




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