Special Guest Blog - "How to Coach Families Who Are Grieving" by Kathy Tracy
His name was Jason. He was my son, my baby boy. He was also a brother, father, cousin and friend to many. He loved to cook, was a voracious reader, and loved to write poetry. When he died suddenly and unexpectedly from a heroin/fentanyl overdose in March 2017, my world shattered and I was overwhelmed with grief.
Grief – I’d felt it before. That anticipatory grief I felt every time my son relapsed and disappeared from living. That fear of losing him. But now he was gone and I was left to figure out how to live with this deep pain, this hole in my heart.
While there are plenty of books written on grieving – the stages of grief, what to expect, how to move forward, what I learned is there truly is no recipe for how to grieve and certainly no time table. Every person’s loss and resulting grief is unique to them – it’s personal.
Grieving my son was made more difficult by the seeming inability of family and friends to talk about my son, to share stories or to hear me share stories. And I was also dealing with my own feelings of shame, blame, and guilt as well as anger.
I did not want my son to be remembered as the addict who made that fateful decision to use after almost 1 ½ years of sobriety!
Rather than stay stuck in all those feelings, I reached out for help. I realized I needed someone to support me through my grief journey and offer encouragement in moving forward with my life. Someone to walk beside me, listen without judgment, acknowledge my pain, patiently giving me the space to share all of my feelings, guiding me to a better understanding of my grief while also helping me to take actionable steps to help me heal. At that time I found this help through a Stephen Minister, a Christian woman trained to walk beside another woman dealing with a setback in life – be it the loss of a loved one, or any other significant setback. She was my coach, my cheerleader, and truly helped me navigate through those first few years.
It was that support and guidance that led me to becoming a BALM Certified Family Recovery Coach. Using my own experience coupled with my BALM training, I realized that I could offer hope and help to other grieving families.
While everyone’s experience will be different, here are some of the things that helped me on my journey:
Allowing myself to grieve without allowing friends and family to step in and manage my feelings.
Being authentic – asking for what I needed and what I didn’t need from others. Recognizing that my journey was mine alone, and no one else could tell me when or how to stop grieving.
Giving others permission to be silently present.
Understanding the reality of the loss but not getting stuck in the pain. Instead, learning to move forward and celebrate my son’s life and all that he was to me and to so many.
Acknowledging that the pain will never fully go away. That there will be times when grief will resurface and that’s OK. Even after 5 years, I can have those moments.
I believe working with a trained coach will provide the support a family member needs to feel heard and to find healing through their grief journey.