It feels wonderful to share happy news with the special people in our lives. We pick up the phone to tell loved ones about new jobs, engagements, and pregnancies. We post photos on social media of weddings, birthday celebrations, and long-awaited vacations beyond the San Francisco Bay Area. But what happens when something tragic or distressing happens? A family crisis, an accident, a death? Sadly, many people don’t know what to say, so they choose not to say anything at all. They end up coping in isolation.
Our staff at Cypress Lawn Funeral Home meets with hurting people in the everyday, as we help them plan funerals, burials, and cremations. Many walk through our doors in a state of shock or numbness, grieving the loss of someone they loved. In the midst of these often-unfamiliar emotions, it’s tempting to try to “power through” to avoid pain. But doing so is a detriment to the healing process.
This Acute Loss Period – those moments right after a loved one dies until the grief sets in – is very important for healing. It’s so crucial we’ve created a free Acute Loss brochure to help those going through it. This brochure, available as a hard copy or a downloadable PDF, outlines the seven keys to help after a loss. Because we’ve seen how impactful these keys are for those in the throes of grief, we decided to take a more in-depth look at each stage in our blog.
Last month on our blog, we described the very first stage in the Acute Loss Period, called “The Hearing Phase,” which starts the moment you hear about the death. After receiving the news, many are caught off guard and immediately think, “I can’t believe they’re gone.”
This leads to the second step, “The Sharing Phase” – and this is where the healing cycle begins. Upon hearing sad news, we’ll often call a spouse, a child, or some other family member who will be supportive. They, in turn, will call someone who will listen to and support them. This creates a ripple effect, as the news extends from one family member to another, from one friend to another. Telling the story of how a loved one died – sometimes even telling the story over and over again – causes something significant to happen. The grieving person is reminded they don’t have to face this pain and loss on their own. A support system falls into place.
If you find yourself having to share the news of someone’s death, and you want to share it in a way that will support the Sharing Phase, keep these considerations in mind:
- Remember to be sensitive to the impact the news may have. If you’re talking on the phone to someone who becomes very distressed, try to contact a friend, neighbor, or family member who lives nearby and can offer comfort in person.
- Whenever possible, make sure there are no interruptions. Turn off the TV, step away from the computer, and do not pause to read incoming texts or answer other phone calls. If you’re especially nervous or emotional about making the phone call, rehearse what you want to say ahead of time, or jot down a few notes so you cover all the necessary details.
- Be sure to share the news in an appropriate way. Think twice before sharing the news with someone via email, text, or social media. Personal is always best for those who knew the person who has died well.
Often, these phone calls or face-to-face conversations end with the same question: “Do you know when the funeral service will be?” This moves us into the third stage of the Acute Loss Period, “The Seeing Phase,” which we will describe in the next installment in this special blog series.