To give ourselves space for our emotions during the grief process

In recent few months, there were sad news about suicides of some celebrities.  In fact, there were also many people in the general public committed suicides recently.  How can family members and friends of these deceased go through their grief process in the face of the coming of Chinese New Year?  How can we help these people with empathy and compassion?

For family members or friends of the deceased who committed suicide, it is important for them to find some space to be with their emotions associated with grief.  These emotions may include sadness, anger, guilt, or anxiety.  It is totally fine for these people to be alone to process these emotions.  They may try to turn towards their emotions by expressing through writing, painting, or other forms of arts.  Sometimes, if they could find a trusted close friend or family member, they may be able to express their emotions to them through intimate talks.  Instead of suppressing ones’ grief, it is essential to allow oneself to express the emotions and thoughts.  Sometimes, people may try to distract themselves by engaging in some addictive behaviors, such as working or gaming.  These activities may temporarily help ones to tune out from inner feelings.  However, it doesn’t mean that their grief would be processed, or they could move on.  In some cases, whenever something triggering their grief reactions these people may be overwhelmed.  We need to understand that burying our grief and its associated emotions will not help us to completely moving on.

If our family members or friends with someone close to them passed away, first of all, we need to respect their personal space.  It may not be a good idea to invite them for group gatherings during the Chinese New Year.  If we find them seeking for solitude during the grief process, it is important for us to respect their decision.  With regular checking on with them, we need to give them enough personal space to tune into their own grief.  For some people, they may want to have one-on-one gathering with us to talk about their feelings and thoughts.  If this is the case, we can act as an empathic listener for them to express their grief to us.  During the intimate talk, we need to respect the person’s boundary and not to ask too many questions about their grief or their relationship with the deceased.  If the person tells us about their inner feelings or thoughts, we may give them feedback that validate their feelings and acknowledge their thoughts.  We only need to give advice if the person asks us for suggestions or ideas.  Otherwise, we need to control ourselves from giving advice too early.

Sometimes, we may also suggest our family members or friends with grief to write a letter to the deceased.  For example, a middle-aged parent can write a letter to their deceased son who committed suicide.  This parent may write about how he or she may act or speak differently before his or her son’s death in the relationship.  Thereafter, the parent may reflect on the letter and tune into one’s inner feelings and thoughts.  If the parent finds appropriate, he or she could write a letter to himself or herself from their deceased child.  Often the letter may express the forgiveness and compassion towards the parent.

Sometimes, after the above process, the family members or friend of the deceased may be able to find some meaning behind what had happened.  They gradually shift from grieving towards the loss to turn towards the deceased’s suffering or a greater calling.  They may be able to take the perspective from the deceased after processing their emotions.  They may also find a new calling to practice acts of kindness in volunteer work.  Some of them may start to lead a support group of deceased family members. 

It is natural and normal to grief for the passing away of our loved ones.  In the grief process, we need to embrace our negative emotions or thoughts.  When we are brave enough to tune into these darkness, the dawn will surely come for us.

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