You may think that you know how to be a supportive friend in a time of loss, sorrow, and destruction.
But a new report suggests that many of us – especially in the social media era – may not be off the shelf.
Eye-catching, the investigation, a special report from WebMD, most people who mourned found social media messages or messages about their loss to be either meaningless, irritating or actively disturbing – in fact, hardly anyone thought they were a good idea.
Even offline, however, most people feel the urge to be cheerful and light-hearted after three months, while in reality it takes a large majority to a year later to process their loss.
The survey of more than 1,000 American adults showed that more than two-thirds were sad in the last three years – many for reasons other than the loss of a loved one, including the loss of a career, a friend, possessions, good health.
Many experienced symptoms that are not typically associated with sadness – some feel only anger and no sadness, some inexplicably tired, many developing physical symptoms, such as insomnia.
So you can help a friend in need? And how can you give yourself time, space and understanding when you mourn? Dr. Seth J Gillihan, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and a WebMD employee, spoke with DailyMail.com about the pitfalls we all tend to fall into and how we can curb our somewhat useless instincts.
The survey found a number of general gestures that were offered to many people who are sad: say it might be worse, order them to go further, give unsolicited advice on how to deal with their sadness, or post on social media ( file image)
& # 39; It's so common, & # 39; Dr. Gillihan sighed. & # 39; We are all trying to do one of the two things. & # 39;
First we take action.
& # 39; We try to resolve, remove, or minimize the person's grief and say, "I'm surprised you're so upset!", Or by trying to give advice – "this was useful to my aunt when she lost her husband, "explains Gillihan.
Everything may be & # 39; very well-intentioned, fun things & # 39 ;, he says, & # 39; but it comes across as dismissive. & # 39;
Secondly, we disappear.
& # 39; We do too much, but we also do too little. We show up right away, we say "I'm sorry", "everything happens for a reason", "maybe you should read this book." & # 39;
& # 39; Then we disappear after a relatively short time. & # 39;
The survey found that many people are sad: it can be worse, recommend that they go further, give unsolicited advice about how to deal with their grief or post on social media.
Rarely were those tactics effective – making 46, 42, 33, and 41 percent worse.
But, Dr. Gillihan explains, sliding into this useless approach does not make you an emotional amateur with ham; even professional therapists are still developing their understanding of how people can best be helped by grief.
Fifty years ago, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist, radically suggested that we should acknowledge and give room to sadness, instead of brushing it under the carpet as usual.
However, she published a phase-specific guide: & # 39; the stages of sorrow & # 39 ;, in 1969 in her groundbreaking book About Death & Dying.
It was groundbreaking, especially since it suggested that we should be open about our weakness after a loss.
She said that we should recognize every moment of sadness and spend time dealing with that pain. According to Kubler-Ross, after we have lost a loved one, we experience (in order): denial, anger, negotiation, depression and acceptance.
It was then controversial and is now controversial, but for various reasons.
Today the biggest complaint is that it is so rigid. Most disagree with the idea that sadness can make perfect sense.
Grief is incredibly nuanced, incredibly personal and hard to control – whether you experience it or witness someone experiencing it.
As the WebMD report showed, sadness can manifest itself in many different and sometimes surprising ways, and it can take longer than we or those around us expected.
A step-by-step guide to what you might feel can be reassuring, it steals you from the possibility that you will feel different things over time. But it can also feel prescriptive, and it can make you wonder if your & # 39; good & # 39; mourns.
Nowadays there is a widespread understanding that the Kubler-Ross model may be too rigid, but Gillihan suspects & # 39; it is more common & # 39; than a more nuanced approach. If you grieve, & # 39; make room for your own grieving process and do not ask yourself whether you are grieving, & # 39; says Dr. Gillihan and & # 39; trust your inherent wisdom of your mind and spirit. I agree. & # 39;
For people outside the therapist's office – a close friend, a casual friend, a colleague, an old classmate, a loved one, an admirer – social media can be just as much a tool for your own emotions as the Kubler-Ross guide is for the grieving. Placing a tribute or sending a condolence message is a tangible way to express that you care if you are not sure how to best help that person.
It is, in some respects, human nature, says Dr. Gillihan, to try and complete the situation with a bow.
& # 39; Instead of sitting with the person and just witnessing, we want to go through that process quickly because of our own inconvenience with loss. & # 39;
Try, he says, to be a trusted presence – someone reliable, round, reachable. Someone with whom they can talk about The bachelor, their commuting, that annoying colleague – and, if they want, their loss.
& # 39; If you turn up more often and do less every time, you are actually more busy, & # 39; said Dr. Gillihan.
& # 39; Be less active but more present. Just sit with the person to be a listening ear if they want to talk about something or watch TV with them.
& # 39; Maybe they don't want to talk about their loss, take a break, & # 39; feel normal.
& # 39; The guiding principle is to make room, say less and instead of talking or doing things, just be there. & # 39;
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