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A Radio Hell Group Project - please contribute thoughts and feelings

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Listeners, old and new - Radio Hell wants your assistance. We have to take a few days away from the station because life and stuff. But since our little mental hamster wheels never ever stop spinning, we've begun work on a project that, if all goes relatively well, maybe Jess will agree to post in the "Please Read" group or something.

Usually bereaved folks don't like to do a lot of talking in the beginning; as a result, non-grievers will become confused as to what they can do to be of help. It might be a nice idea to have sort of a "manifesto" to shove under their noses to clear up the confusion. That's what this project is about, an attempt to create some sort of action plan for those who hope to take care of the bereaved.

Be advised that this is a really really really rough draft that lacks the usual polish and pathos that you've come to expect from a RH transmission. That's where you come in. Please either PM or submit suggestions, amendments, deletions, snark-free alternatives (although we hate those, we'll suck it in if necessary), or other comments that would best represent YOUR wishes during this oh-so-delicate time. What do YOU wish people would say or do? What do you wish people would avoid saying or doing? Now's your chance. We'll make a second or third pass through the doc once we get some feedback, then we'll see if a POINT to our grief could actually be made.

Thanks in advance for everything. Here it comes:

So you wanna help someone through the grieving process, do you? Here are a few things you’ll need to know up front:

1.   The person you thought you knew has left the building. There’s bits of the old person in there, but they’re currently drowning in grief and are in no position to act like the old “them” right now. They don’t want to have to act for anyone. You may not recognize them; you may even panic about this. You’ll have to get over that for their sake.

2.   This is not about you! Actually, nothing about this is about you. Your BP (bereaved person) is dealing with an enormous hole in their life. This is not a good time for you to have any selfish inclinations whatsoever. Their well is dry, and there’s no way of knowing when it will start to fill up again. If that’s a problem, then leave the BP to someone more selfless. Seriously. Do not go into this looking for personal gain or recognition; they don’t have it to give. Do not hope to be the one to “cure” them. Your job will be to listen without judgement.

3.   They may shock you with things they say. You have to be ready. You may not recognize the person talking to you. This is not a sign that they’ve turned evil. They're really lost right now and will be for quite a while.

4.   Talking about “time” is worthless. A second is a thousand years right now, especially in the first year or two. You will be very mistaken if you think there’s some magical time limit to their grief. Maybe you’re on a schedule, but theirs has been destroyed. You’ll need to accept and respect that. If you can’t, you won’t be helping.

5.   It’s a given that if you ask “How are you?” they’ll either lie and say they’re fine, or they’ll tell you the truth. The truth may include a huge meltdown right in front of you. "How they are" is much worse than you can imagine. There really isn't any need to ask.

6.   The vast majority of BPs are going to shun the spotlight. This is not a good time to throw a party for them.

7.   Anything can trigger them. They’re about as raw as a nerve can get. You may say or suggest something that sets off a memory of the BP’s departed. Tell them you’re sorry and listen to their explanation of why it set them off; there’s a very good chance they’ll forgive you. Forgive them for having a whole bunch of stuff to learn all over again.

9.   They may have other reality-based problems to deal with. Their financial and security situations will probably have changed, frequently for the worse. If you can help with that, great; if you can’t, maybe find someone who can. That would be very kind of you.

This is fantastic. I struggle constantly to figure out WHAT exactly it is that I wish people woukd say/ do. A few additional things that come to mind:

10. Try to be a bit more gentle than usual. The BP may be hypersensitive to all sorts of things right now and might not be able to handle criticism or teasing the way they used to, even if you're not trying to be mean.

11. If they tell you something you can do to help, or something they would rather you NOT do, listen to them. Just because someone is grieving does not mean they are incapable of making a decision or acting in their own best interests. Ignoring their wishes will not be helpful and will probably only make things worse.

12. Don't be surprised if they frequently forget things or seem distracted or flaky. They're struggling just to get through the day and have a lot on their mind.

Thank you for the feedback, Monique - I guess you would know. They'll be included, maybe added to, if that's ok.

Absolutely! Like you said, just a rough draft, though I tried to stick to a similar style to yours for consistency's sake.

Quick update: this project is still alive (so to speak), but rather than a pamphlet, it's probably going to grow into a booklet, with a page for each numbered item.

There's still more than enough time to submit suggestions. It's understandable that you might be hesitant to open up old wounds, but if there's something you went through that we're missing, please feel free to add it to our list. It's hard to imagine we've covered everything already. Feel free to PM or post if you'd like to contribute one of your bad experiences with the living. It just seems rude to go mining the other threads for that without permission.

I will say that the other day my mother looked me directly in the eyes and hissed "You have no idea what grief really is."

Yeah, that wasn't helpful at all, mom.


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