When it comes to losing someone you love, it’s often hard to find the right words. It can be difficult to know what to say to friends who are experiencing grief, and it can be hard to articulate your own pain when you’re the one going through a rough time.
This week on the Cosmo Happy Hour podcast, Cosmopolitan.com editor Elisa Benson discusses grief and loss with author Nora McInerny Purmort, co-founder and CEO of ModernLoss.com Rebecca Soffer, and Cosmopolitan.com reader Emmaline Nguyen. They discuss the painful reality of losing someone you love and the people and resources that have helped them through:
1. Losing someone can be particularly difficult when you’re in your late 20s or 30s. When Soffer was in her thirties, she lost both her mother and father within a span of four years, and she found that there weren’t a lot of structures set up to support her. "It’s not like you’re in college where there are guidance counselors," Soffer says. "Chances are you’re working full-time or you just finished grad school and you’re trying to build your career ... it’s really hard to carve out the time to support ourselves when you’re in that stage of life." Her experience prompted her to create ModernLoss.com, a website dedicated to candid conversations about grief. There, she publishes personal essays, resources and ideas for those who are experiencing loss.
2. You need to be vocal about what you need. When you’ve lost someone you love, it can be hard to continue with your normal day-to-day tasks and often you need to reach out and ask for help. "The onus unfortunately is on you to tell people what you need," Soffer says. "But the fact of the matter is you might not know what it is that you need." One way to help navigate that unfamiliar grief is by seeking out online forums and communities; hearing the stories of others who have been through similar experiences can help you better process your own emotions.
3. It’s normal to feel like a pariah sometimes. Soffer says that a lot of times people don’t really know what to say or how to deal with someone who’s experienced a loss. "I think people think loss is contagious or they don’t want to think about their own mortality, but for people like me and so many people out there, it’s just a fact of life that we’re living with the absence of someone we really care about," she says.
4. There are resources available to you, if you seek them out. Nguyen lost her boyfriend a little over three years ago after he died in a car accident, and she says that therapy was an extremely important resource for her. "I was like, I need someone to help me process this and let me just cry and be alone and have it be OK," Nguyen says. She knew she needed to be in safe space where, as she says, someone could help her get through this.
5. One of the most helpful things to do is simply talk about it, even when it’s hard. When Nguyen lost her boyfriend, she went through a phase where nothing anyone said felt like the "right thing." "Everything was going to be wrong regardless, but I think just talking about Josh - the fun things and the memories, rather than pushing it to the side and pretending it never happened - I think really helped me a lot," she says.
6. If you know someone who’s grieving, ask them how they’re doing. After her boyfriend’s accident, Nguyen says no one ever asked her how she was doing. "I know after Josh’s accident, nobody asked," Nguyen says. "People were scared and the first time someone asked, I was like, oh my gosh, this is what I needed - for someone to ask."
7. You don’t always have to know the right thing to say. It’s not always easy to know what to say to people who are going through a traumatic experience. "I think sometimes the right thing to say when you’re at a loss for what to say is, ’I’m here for you, this is so shitty, I’m here for you,’" Soffer says.
8. Remember that someone’s grief will always be a part of them. When Purmort’s husband developed cancer, she started the blog MyHusbandsTumor.com, where she shares her story and answers questions about loss. "The people I hear from are not all people whose husbands have cancer, they’re just people who have gone through a thing and they’re reaching out to me because the people around them have moved on, so they don’t get asked about it," Purmort says. "It reminds me to try to show up for other people in my life more than I think I historically had before anything had happened to me."
9. The truth is that these sort of tragedies can happen to anyone. “I remember people saying ‘don’t take things for granted’ and I was always like, I know cognitively what that sentence means, but how do you not?" Purmort says. "We’re just so comfortable until we’re uncomfortable because these things happen to someone else until they happen to you.”
Hear more about each woman’s individual story, including what has helped them cope by listening to the full episode below.
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