Grief Kuel Thought Leader: Lisa Michelle Zega
When a person dies, not talking about them does not make the pain go away. Say their name.
Grief is part of life. Grief is an expression of love. Not talking about the loss does not make it go away. In addition, grief does not need to be fixed. Neither does the person who is grieving. What must change is the way we think and talk about pain and loss. The griever is not broken. The messaging about grief is.
“Added to grief is the crippling burden of shame and blame for failing to do it right.”
It’s okay to say the name of the person who passed because grief is the NORMAL reaction to loss. After all, not saying their name does not make the grief less real. It doesn’t make the griever forget and feel better.
Say Their Name:
The pervasive message is that because it feels bad, grief is bad. So there is pressure to get past it, move on, and return to normal as fast as possible. Added to grief is the crippling burden of shame and blame for failing to do it right. Similarly, for the person experiencing loss, life will never be normal. It is not normal that their person is gone.
This can not be fixed, so the griever feels like there is something wrong with them. That they maybe doing “grief” wrong. In other words, loss is to be carried and integrated. We don’t move on from loss, we move on with it. In this way, we heal and feel whole. Saying their name might feel uncomfortable. It may hurt. Allow it. This willingness to feel pain and discomfort is affirming to the one grieving.
Space For Their Broken Heart:
It lets them know they are not alone and that there is space for their broken heart. In addition, as we make room for the pain of others, we make room for ourselves. We change the culture around loss.
This matters because grief is as unique and individualized as the love and loss of each person. In other words, there is no right way or time frame for each person’s grief. Saying the name of the one who is gone does not mean trying to get the griever to talk about it, cry, or in any other way perform.
“Allow their pain without trying to fix it. It’s okay to not know what to say.”
Moreover, the myriad of expectations to feel better and get back to happiness or to feel the right amount of sad for the right length of time has many people hurting in isolation.
The griever judges themselves, feeling like they failed at grief. Say their name is not a prescription. However, it’s a reminder to name the grief and help normalize it as the natural response to loss. Allow their pain without trying to fix it. It’s okay to not know what to say.
Above all, lessen expectations. No need to cheer them up. Sentences that begin with “At least” are not helpful. The pain of loss can not be bypassed or erased. Forget the stages of grief or an acceptable time frame.
Moreover, simply listen and allow their grief without expectations for how they are supposed to do it. This makes the intolerable more bearable. No one is meant to carry loss on their own. We heal by integrating pain and carrying it together. Say their name.
About the Author:
Lisa Michelle Zega is a Life Coach for Midlife Women of faith who are starting over after the death of a spouse or a divorce and are struggling with sadness and self-doubt. She helps them metabolize grief to retain all the nutrients, learning and wisdom and release the waste, so they can begin again with joy and confidence.
She was married to a pastor, divorced after 23 years of marriage and her boys stopped talking to her for nearly 6 years. Zega later buried a fiancé 5 months before their wedding day. She now lives with her handsome biker hubby, adorable Jack Russel and creative stepson outside of Los Angeles and enjoys a renewed relationship with her grown sons.
She’s a devoted Minnesota Vikings fan, enjoys people, loves to hike, read, travel and embraces the fullness of life — the joy, sorrow and all the in between. You can find more about Lisa Michelle at Legityou.com or Lisamichelle.legityou on Instagram.