Text◆Leung Tsz-Tun (hospice social worker)
Faced with a sudden death, the immediate reaction of close relatives and friends is shock and disbelief; other grief emotions such as anxiety, anger, regret, self-blame, etc. will also emerge one after another, and how long they last will vary from person to person.
Some people experience significant improvement after a year and a half, but some may take longer, or even grieve forever.
(Hong Kong News) According to the Census and Statistics Department, more than 50,000 people die in Hong Kong every year, of which about 25% involve acute illness, accidents and suicide. That is, 1 in every 4 deaths occurs suddenly and without warning. .
One sentence makes the family doubly sad
Jiayi has been married for 20 years and has no children. The couple are both professionals, have good incomes, and have always lived a very comfortable life. One day, when Jiayi’s husband was alone in the parking lot preparing to drive to work, he suddenly suffered a heart attack and fell into coma. He was found dead two hours later. After Jiayi learned the news, she immediately collapsed emotionally. She couldn’t believe it and couldn’t accept that her husband, whom she had had breakfast with a few hours ago, had left forever.
Afterwards, Jiayi needed to take psychiatric medication and receive psychological counseling. One year later, her condition has greatly improved, and her work and daily life have almost returned to normal. However, she still cries bitterly whenever she thinks of her husband, and she has never let go of her sadness.
I published a column titled “The Most Useless Comforting Words”, in which 10 words were collected from the sharings of different bereaved people during my many years of counseling. After the article was published, many readers left messages on social networking sites. Since there are 10 useless words of comfort, what are the “useful words of comfort”?
In fact, like you, I hope to find that magical word that can help bereaved families recover and regain their strength once spoken. But after 16 years of searching and contacting nearly 1,000 bereaved families, unfortunately there is still no clue; on the contrary, there are words that can make family members even more sad, disappointed, and even angry.
Some bereaved family members once said that the grief of losing a loved one is heartbreaking because it is mixed with years of love and memories between each other, sometimes coupled with a love-hate relationship. I wonder how such deep and complex emotions can be released with just one or two words.
Try to listen to the feelings of the other person
Before writing this article, I searched a lot of foreign and local information and came to the conclusion that listening and accompanying are the most effective comfort methods compared to talking. Listening is a basic ability that most people have, but not everyone can do it well.
Some people look left and right while listening, not focusing on what the other person is sharing at all, which makes people feel disrespected. Many people will unconsciously enter expert mode when they hear other people’s sad stories, eager to analyze and evaluate the other person’s situation, give opinions or solve problems; of course this is not wrong, but sometimes what the bereaved need is tolerance and tolerance. Acceptance means that you are willing to sit quietly next to him and try to listen to and contain his feelings as much as possible.
There was once a family member of an accident victim who was so sad that she made a fuss in the emergency room, accusing the medical staff of being useless and failing to save her relative. At that time, I tried to get closer to comfort her, but she was rejected. She even scolded me loudly and asked me to leave.
Of course I didn’t leave. Instead, I slowly sat next to her and said to her: “I won’t say too much, I just want to accompany you, because later the medical staff or the police may need to deal with something with you. I can help you finish it well.” I stayed with her for about three hours that day, just accompanying her to see the doctor and the police, buying her water to quench her thirst, and taking her to the bus station to take her home.
Two days later, she took the initiative to call the office to find me, hoping that I would accompany her to handle the funeral matters. In the face of sudden death, accompanying the bereaved family members to properly complete what they need or want to do is already of great help.
Be there for the other person at any time when needed
In Hong Kong, every sudden death case needs to be reported to the coroner. The process may require seeing a medical examiner, giving a confession, and attending a coroner’s inquest. Most citizens have probably never experienced these procedures and will inevitably feel anxious and uneasy. If someone is with you at this time, it can often effectively help them settle down slowly.
In addition, truly effective companionship does not mean just standing by without saying a word, but keenly observing and feeling the needs of the other person and taking appropriate actions. For example, if you notice that the other person has been standing for a long time, you try to find a suitable place for him to take a rest. If you know that the other person has been waiting outside the operating room for a long time, you should bring him some snacks and water to satisfy his hunger.
If you feel the family member is starting to get emotional, give them a pat on the shoulder or a hug. The most important thing about companionship is to always be ready to “cater” the needs “thrown out” by the other person, rather than to hold his hand and rush forward.
slowly relieve pain Expand life and shrink sorrow
Listening and accompanying the bereaved can provide comfort and support to the bereaved. However, in my more than 10 years of counseling experience, I have encountered some cases. No matter how hard I tried different counseling techniques, the grief level of the bereaved person remained unchanged and did not decrease at all.
In the past, I have always believed that grief counseling should use every possible means to help the bereaved to let go of their grief, gain strength again, and move forward positively to start a new life. It was not until I experienced the epidemic for three years that I realized that human abilities are very limited and insignificant. Many times, when faced with what is happening in the external environment, there is no way to change it.
Blame yourself for contracting the epidemic and killing your family
In the past three years, there was a case where the victim personally sent his father to a nursing home before the epidemic. Little did he know that that was the last time he saw him. After that, his father contracted the epidemic, became critically ill, was admitted to the hospital, and passed away, and he was unable to be with him. In the counseling room, he expressed strong regret; another case victim went out to have dinner with friends when the epidemic eased, but became infected and infected his family, causing the death of an elder in the family. He constantly blamed himself for the death family. As I listened to their stories, I couldn’t help but wonder if these things happened to me, would I be able to let go of my sorrow?
Is it unacceptable to continue living with sadness, or even labeled as having an emotional problem? When I felt confused and had doubts about the goals of counseling that I believed in before, I accidentally read a foreign writer’s understanding of grief, which actually brought me new ideas and solutions:
Many people mistakenly believe that grief will diminish over time. The truth is that sadness never changes, it is life that becomes stronger with sadness. (Growing around grief, Lois Tonkin)
Not every sadness can be let go
This short text made me discover that not every sadness can be let go. When grief cannot be narrowed, it is better to consider expanding life, thereby reducing the influence of grief and the proportion of life it takes up. If you don’t understand this concept, I will explain it with the following two mathematical formulas.
Example 1: 3/4 (75%) → 1/4 (25%)
In the first equation, the numerator represents “sadness” and the denominator represents “life.” is equivalent to 75%, which means that when a bereaved person is in a very sad state, sadness occupies most of his life; when this person receives care, his sadness can be reduced, and the numerator becomes 1, then the proportion of sadness in his life It dropped significantly to 25%.
Example 2: 3/4 (75%) → 3/40 (18.75%)
If a person’s grief experience is so severe that the numerator cannot be changed at all (75%), what can be done to reduce the grief percentage? The answer is to increase the denominator, for example from 4 to 40, and the proportion of grief in life will drop from 75% to 18.75%.
Join a hobby class and go hiking
In addition to trying to help the bereaved alleviate their grief, it turns out that there is another way to help the bereaved, which is to encourage and help them expand their lives. When the scope of life is broad enough, even if grief still exists, its impact on life will be much reduced.
When you really can’t let go of grief, you don’t have to force yourself. Instead, consider opening up your life and accepting infinite possibilities and different invitations, such as meeting with friends to join interest classes, going hiking, visiting art museums, participating in volunteer services, etc., even if you have little interest. , but don’t refuse immediately, but encourage yourself to try to attend. As time goes by, you may find that you can coexist well with grief. Even if you still cry when you remember your deceased loved one, it is enough if you don’t feel the same pain as before.