Why a social worker says we need to find new ways to communicate about loss and grief
'Underneath grief, people are really telling us that they've cared deeply for someone'
While comfort and support for grieving loved ones can often be found in the form of a lasagna or casserole dish in its early stages, a palliative care social worker says it should extend beyond that.
Grief is one of life's most challenging experiences and communities need to learn how to offer continued support during the grieving process, said Serena Lewis, who is based in Nova Scotia.
"What I tend to see is that when people are newly diagnosed with an illness there seems to be a swarm of people and support. The same thing happens after a death occurs."
The 3-day window
"We usually have about a three-day window where we will bombard people with lovely food and gestures and then we slowly start to trickle away because it becomes uncomfortable, I believe," Lewis said.
There's an underlying expectation, she said, from the people surrounding the grieving individual for things to go back to normal.
We have to evolve and recognize that there is no finite time — families will grieve the loss of a relationship forever.— Serena Lewis
But grieving takes time and it is often difficult for grieving individuals and families to find a new sense of what normal is, she said. In short — Lewis is urging people to keep the casseroles coming.
She's giving a talk in Charlottetown on Thursday evening on how important the element of community engagement can be to the grieving process.
Outdated lens on grief
"We have to evolve and recognize that there is no finite time — families will grieve the loss of a relationship forever," Lewis said.
She said words and ideas like "closure" have the potential to make it even more challenging for families to talk about their grief and the loved one that has been lost.
We can let people set the pace and we can walk alongside them and listen to their stories. Ask them questions about their loved ones.— Serena Lewis
Lewis said the five stages of grief might be an outdated lens of looking at grief.
It could be more helpful, she said, for communities to look at new ways to engage with those who are grieving.
'Become better listeners'
"What I often believe is that there's a reason that we're given two ears and one mouth. Oftentimes we have to become better listeners," she said.
Lewis said to support people who are grieving, we should let them "set the pace and we can walk alongside them and listen to their stories."
She also said it's important to ask questions about their loved ones.
"Underneath grief, people are really telling us that they've cared deeply for someone."
Lewis will be giving a talk on grieving at the Rodd Royalty Inn on Thursday evening in Charlottetown at 7 p.m.
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With files from CBC News: Island Morning