When you ‘re in a mess, hurting or lost, it can be very difficult to hear what others are saying. Words run together or simply sound like noise. If someone you are very close to dies, whether it’s anticipated or sudden, the shock can be and often is so severe that almost everything seems garbled and mixed up. The unreal nature of the event can be so difficult to take in that you can find yourself actually needing to hang onto something for fear of loosing your balance. All of your stability has been shaken and all that is sensible and reasonable is now very confusing. One of the ways that those around you may try to help is to speak with you and to you. Sometimes this can be soothing and helpful but often words offered in an effort to calm, sooth and comfort never get through…You just can’t take them in. You don’t have to be grieving to understand this. If you have ever been to see a physician and there has been important information given to you by the doctor, chances are, you may not have heard or understood what you were just told. You were there, you were paying attention and you knew that the words were important but still you left the doctor’s office not being sure of what you heard. When things are critical and have important implications we are often not able to take them in. For those grieving the loss of someone who has been very close to them, everyday for sometime can be just like that. Words tend to mean very little because they aren’t getting in. One of things that people often do when trying to relate to someone who is in a mess is to offer them a story about themselves. This technique is an attempt to show the person in distress that they are understood. “I know where you are”, “I have been there too”, “I get it” and “I know what you mean,” are all ways that we try to reach someone who has been battered by something in life. This approach, even though well meaning, isn’t very helpful Unfortunately, all the person hurting is likely to hear, if they can take the words in at all, is you speaking about you. Chances are this will leave them feeling uncared for, diminished, resentful, unimportant and even angry. It’s much better to simply be present with your friend and if possible to respond to what they need staying focused on them. There is a place though where words can be very helpful. A place where you will very likely feel supported and heard and a place, maybe the only place where those present can say “me too” or “I know what you mean” and then go on and tell their story. If you have the opportunity to join or participate in a bereavement or grief group you may find the group experience very helpful. The others in the room or the circle really do understand, they have been there and they are there now. When others who are grieving tell you they understand and want to share their story and their hurt you may, for the very first time feel like you are not crazy, that you are not alone and completely lost. The stories that you will hear will provide you with permission to feel as you do and they will allow you what society has such a hard time with; to feel sad, lost and utterly alone. In time and with strength and courage to expose and express your feelings you will likely, with the help of those in the group, come to a new and more hopeful spot. Knowing that you have been heard and understood is freeing and helpful to the point of having you begin to feel better. Years ago groups like this were very difficult to find. Today I am encouraged to see how many are available. If you can find it in yourself to seek one out, the results after some risking has been done and trust established may be very positive.