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What people need when they lose a loved one

Posted: January 20, 2010 9:38 p.m.
Updated: January 21, 2010 4:55 a.m.

I am responding to the letter to the editor "Taking time to grieve," which appeared in the New Year's Day edition of the paper.

The letter, regarding the death of the writer's father, opined how society is ill-equipped to handle someone who is grieving.

As the director of The Grief Program based here in Santa Clarita, I couldn't agree more.

Society gives us about three days to grieve, then we better be back to work on the fourth day. It's amazing how loss experiences catch most people unprepared.

We simply are not taught how to handle loss, much less move beyond it.

Friends and family members are also unprepared for handling the pain, isolation and loneliness that invariable accompany grief. Of course, people mean well when they try to help us, but they just don't have the right tools.

Much of the information we receive on coping with loss is simply not helpful. "Be grateful," "be strong," "keep busy" or "get your mind off yourself" are statements that may be true but certainly do not help in matters of the heart.

It is my belief grieving people aren't broken so they don't need to be fixed. They need to be listened to with dignity, honor and respect. But it's more than just talking about it. There is unfinished emotional business that has to be dealt with.

Otherwise, those who refuse to grieve get stuck in melancholy, a low-grade infection that never goes away.

I wish to offer Tlona Owens of Valencia peace, comfort and strength during this new year. May you find hope and the company of enduring people who don't take away your feelings but rather give you space to grieve.


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