|Support Others in Transitions
Is someone you care about going through an ending or a
difficult transition, feeling sad or grieving? Are you?
Everyone experiences changes in life. With most endings and
transitions -- such as job changes, the ending of a
relationship, or the death of a loved one -- grief and sadness
are a normal part of the process.
Unfortunately, people experiencing grief and sadness are often
given the message that they should do so in seclusion. While in
public, they're encouraged to hide their emotions, put on a
happy face, get on with life, etc. This is mostly because the
rest of us are not comfortable with and don't know how to deal
with grief and sadness in others.
Think about the last time you had a conversation with someone
experiencing sadness or grief. Once the person started sharing
his or her emotions, didn't you immediately want to offer
encouragement, inspiration or a solution? Most of us do, and we
believe we are being supportive by doing this.
But while we are busy fixing the person's problems, he or she
has just lost the opportunity to be listened to. Telling his or
her story and being listened to is vital during times of
The following are some ideas to really help someone
experiencing the grief or sadness of a transition. Follow the
steps outlined below and you will be giving those you cherish a
If you are the one experiencing an ending, grief or transition,
share these ideas with your friends and family to create a
supportive environment for yourself.
1. Listen Without Judgment.
If your friend told you he lost a job, has financial problems
or just ended a relationship, would you automatically assume it
was his fault? And perhaps it was. However, even if your friend
did cause the change, pointing out who is at a fault does not
make it any easier to bear. He knows who is at cause. Your
contribution is to listen while trusting that he will own the
responsibility in time.
2. Listen Without Telling Your Story.
When people are in transition, they need to talk about
emotions, thoughts and concerns. It's possible you may have had
a similar experience and have great ideas to share. But the
transitioning person is not ready for these just yet. He or she
first needs to talk and be heard. No matter how close you are to
the person undergoing sadness or grief, it is not your place to
provide unsolicited solutions or stop his or her pain. Share
your experiences only if asked.
3. Handle Yourself in the Face of Sadness or Grief.
Emotions are not contagious. If someone is sad, there is no
requirement for you to also feel sad. If you take on the sadness
of others, you take away their opportunity to experience their
own feelings. If you become sad as a result of listening to
grief, the grieving person will immediately feel guilty and try
to make you feel better. Listen to another's grief without
taking it on and feeling it yourself.
4. Be Prepared to Deal with Your Fears.
When listening to another's difficult emotions, you may
experience fear. You may become afraid of someday having to deal
with a similar situation and wonder how you will handle it. You
may not want to hear what is being said because of this fear. If
this situation were to happen to you one day, you would deal
with it to the best of your ability. Meanwhile, listening to
another does not make it any more or less likely that something
like this will happen to you.
5. Take Responsibility for Yourself.
If you feel emotionally full after listening to a grieving
person, ask him or her to stop sharing. Simply saying, "I care
about you and want to listen, but now is not a good time. Can I
listen [give possible time]?" will do the trick. Unless you let
others know you are not ready to listen, you are sending a
message that could be easily misconstrued. If you force yourself
to listen when you can't, the grieving person will sense your
inability to be fully present. He or she may interpret your
"vibe" as a message, something like: "Your sadness or grief is
not ok. No one wants to hear about it, not even me. Please put
on a happy face." He or she will likely shut down negative
emotions to accommodate you. This is not good for either of you,
as it makes the grief last longer.
6. Allow Sadness.
Emotions are not deadly. And unless your emotions are of a
clinical intensity, they cause no harm and are a good and
natural part of life. If you suspect clinical depression or any
other mental health issue, please get help from a qualified
professional. Most dark emotions, such as sadness and grief, are
just as natural and healing as joy and laughter. Allow the
person undergoing change to feel sad; it is good for the soul.
It's also his or her right.
7. Don't Determine the Time Limit on Another's Emotions.
We often want others to hurry up and get over their emotions so
that our life can get back to normal. It is not up to you to
determine when it's time for another to get over his or her
emotions. Emotions have their own time table.
If someone you care about is going through a transition and
feeling sad or grieving, simply listen. By listening you will be
giving him or her a vital gift.
If you are the one going through a difficult transition and
feeling sad, grieving, find supportive people to simply listen
Your relationships will be richer and fuller for the experience.
Your Relationship Coach,
(c) Rinatta Paries, 1998-2002. Do you know how to attract your
ideal mate? Do you know how to build a fulfilling relationship,
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