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Understanding Grief: Be Sure To Comfort Before You Correct

Offer love.

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I can’t remember a time in my family where I was simply comforted. Not once.

Not from my maternal side, not from my paternal side and definitely not from extended family. Never allowed time to grieve or process. It has always been “pull yourself together,” “remember God loves you/corrects you/carries you,” and “you'll be okay”.

In the bible, if a great loss was experienced people mourned, tore their clothes, and removed earthly things so they could engage in their grief. I don't ever remember being allowed to engage in my grief until I met my husband. I've heard "in God's timing," “Pray about it,” "God loves you, you will be alright," "you're blessed," "you can't just pray for what you want and not embrace what you've been given" and my all-time favorite "you can have another one" in the face great loss and emotional bankruptcy.

When is it okay for me to know this and yet grieve? Is it okay for me to accept I'm blessed, be grateful for all I have (not materialism), and yet be broken? It doesn’t mean I will stay there. Is it ever okay to be human in the space of Christianity? When is it okay for me to be human in the presence of family? How can you heal from the brokenness of grief without the process?

As I unpack these emotions I think about the fact that this is true for many families, especially African-American. It is true our emotions are not always truth and as sentient beings we should be able to look at situations logically. But this is not true in the face of grief, loss, and brokenness. We should feel every emotion. Every pain needs to be processed, every fear expressed, every anger released, and every tear shed. Not to our detriment but to shed those emotions and to release that frustration.

We tend to want to push people past their grief and emotions because we want them to feel better, but also because it makes us uncomfortable. We don't want to have to sit in that grief with them; we don't want to provide that emotional covering. I believe that we do this because it will force us to face emotions and grief that we have locked away. This is in no way advocating becoming a dumping ground for other people's emotions, we have to protect ourselves. But on the onset or occasional experiences of grief that those we love feel, we should offer comfort.

The other part of this is to avoid rushing people through their process. We are all individually geared, what works for one doesn't work for all, and although we want to give advice it's not always well-timed. Begin the process of asking people how you can be there for them when they are grieving. Remember that grieving is not only assigned to when someone dies. Grieving happens during loss of relationships, shifts in life seasons, and unexpected change.

The correction from my family is invaluable and I adhere to it when needed, but I realized in order to become a balanced individual I can't see my emotions as weaknesses. They are expressions of what is internally happening and boxing them away is detrimental.  Moreover, I am learning I can't correct the ones I love past their grief.  Letting folks be and offering them comfort is the only thing needed.  

Offer love. Correction should be offered when it is necessary to keep the ones you love from causing intentional harm or there are deficits in their ability to reason or process. Allow people space to be them in the season they are in; don’t try to fix it. Offer people refuge from judgment, peaceful presence, and loving arms. Then ask them if they want your insight. Give them room to choose what they need from you.

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